As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is preparing 2022-23 vaccine strains, the Winters Joint Unified School District and Yolo County are collaborating for the upcoming free community flu clinic.
Officials will set up shop on Oct. 25 from 3–7 p.m. in the district office board room at 909 W. Grant Ave., where free vaccinations will be available for all students, staff, families and community members. The no appointment vaccine makes the annual inoculation more functional.
Jenny Pinedo, Winters JUSD special education and student services director, says convenient healthcare opportunities such as vaccines close to home create healthy families.
“As the cold and flu season approaches, offering parents the chance to be proactive in their child’s health helps to ensure the student’s ability to participate in school by remaining well and healthy,” Pinedo said.
Having a free clinic available to students, staff, and all locals removes community health hurdles, Pinedo said, adding, too often, insurance, transportation, or knowledge of the healthcare system, keep local families from traveling to Woodland or Davis for vaccinations.
That’s the same reason Yolo County Health and Human Service Administration Program Coordinator Ada Barrios said the agency’s immunization program partnered with Winters JUSD. But it’s not just about the students and staff, Barrios added.
“We strive to remove as many barriers as possible that keep people from getting their flu vaccine,” Barrios said, adding the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) provides the flu vaccine at no cost. “Making them free and offering them at multiple sites in Yolo County increases our community’s access to these vaccines.”
While the CDC reports a low 2021–22 peak percentage of positive influenza test results as the weakest in at least 25 years before the COVID-19 pandemic, it also notes two waves of novel influenza A activity last year, which lasted from October 2021 to mid-June.
“Novel influenza viruses are influenza A virus subtypes that are different from currently circulating human seasonal influenza H1 and H3 viruses,” reports the CDC.
Barrios said previous year’s low flu vaccination rates in children and working adults is why Yolo County partnered with the school districts.
“We can reach exactly these populations with this important public health service,” Barrios said.
The Yolo County Immunization Program partnered with the California State University of Sacramento (CSUS) Nursing Program to provide community experience for their nursing students who will administer the vaccines. The student nurses will help staff the clinic with much-needed vaccinators, and work alongside seasoned public health nurses, gaining invaluable experience for their future careers, Barrios said.
Post-pandemic flu vaccines are essential, according to Barrios and Pinedo. However, Pinedo points out inoculations minimize sick days, which though needed, can cause further stress.
“When students miss school, they miss out on crucial opportunities for quality first instruction, social-emotional learning opportunities, and the opportunity to gain the foundational skills needed for success in school,” Pinedo said, adding students will attend ill not to miss out, but they can spread the flu. “By receiving vaccines, students can be protected from serious illness if exposed.”
Barrios said the importance of children being able to attend school in person was evident during COVID-19 school closings. Pinedo agrees, noting COVID’s tremendous impact on district students in the last few years left students’ academic, social, and emotional needs at an all-time high. Keeping up on all immunizations, including the seasonal flu vaccine, will help students prevent severe illness and will hopefully decrease missed days due to a vaccine-preventable disease, Barrios added.
Winters JUSD will have English and Spanish-speaking staff at the event to ensure that anyone who wants a vaccination can have questions answered. Additionally, Yolo County will provide COVID vaccines for those who wish to receive them.
CDPH and Yolo County HHSA recommend the annual flu vaccination for anyone six months of age and older; seniors over 65 years old; pregnant women, individuals with underlying medical conditions and weak immune systems; caregivers and residents in long-term care facilities; and essential workers who interact with the general public.