GW health providers said the flu shots will protect vulnerable residents and are critically important in the fight against COVID-19.
The George Washington University, in partnership with several community organizations, is providing free flu shots to people living in wards 7 and 8 and other medically underserved parts of Washington, D.C.
GW collaborated with community organizations such as Bread for the City, the Family and Medical Counseling Service, the United Medical Center Mobile Health Vans and others to launch the initiative aimed at protecting vulnerable residents from influenza, especially this fall and winter as they battle the coronavirus.
“Getting a flu vaccine is so important this year as there are many overlapping symptoms between influenza and COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough and body aches,” said Raymond Lucas, medical director of the GW Occupational Health Program at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “If we can prevent people from coming down with these respiratory illnesses, there will be fewer people seeking care in the health care system.”
The flu clinics will be set up in churches, mobile vans, food banks and other sites to make it easy for District residents to prepare for this year’s flu season.
“The George Washington University is deeply committed to the health of our D.C. community,” said GW President Thomas LeBlanc. “Our faculty, students and staff are working every day to reduce inequities and improve access to health care, especially during this critical time.”
During last year’s flu season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 400,000 people in the United States were admitted to the hospital with influenza. Public health experts warn that hospitals and other health care providers could be overwhelmed if both flu and COVID-19 cases start surging in the coming months.
GW’s free clinics will be set up in parts of the District with a shortage of health care providers in order to provide influenza protection to residents, including those who may have chronic health conditions and are at a higher risk for serious complications from the flu and COVID-19.
Volunteers, including GW nursing students who have been trained to give flu shots, will staff the clinics. A licensed medical provider will supervise all of the volunteers, Dr. Lucas said.
In addition to the SMHS Occupational Health Program, the GW Medical Faculty Associates, the School of Nursing and the Milken Institute School of Public Health also helped launch the community flu clinics.
In August, GW launched an in-house COVID-19 testing protocol for all students, faculty and staff authorized to be on campus for the fall semester.
The novel GW COVID-19 testing system and other measures help keep the limited number of faculty, students and staff on campus safe. At the same time, the weekly, free COVID testing on campus also helps protect the greater Washington region from spreading virus.
This month, GW added a free flu shot to that regimen for the estimated 4,000 students, faculty and staff who are on campus.