A couple of free drive-through flu shot events are set for both this week and next week in McAlester.

First, the Pittsburg County Health Department is conducting a drive-through flu clinic at the Pittsburg County Health Department at 1400 E. College Ave. on Friday.

"We encourage everyone to come through and get a flu shot," said Coordinating Nurse RN Tiffany Busby.

All anyone has to do to get an influenza vaccination is drive up to the health department from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Oct. 11. Nurses will be ready to give the flu shots to participants — who won't even have to get out of their vehicle to get a vaccination. Nurses will walk up to them.

An exception is children aged 9 and younger. They can still get a free flu shot Friday — but they will have to get their shots at a walkup area that will be set up at the health department, Busby said.

That's the first round.

On Oct. 18, which is the following Friday, the health department is teaming up with the McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management to offer another drive-through free vaccination clinic at the Pittsburg County Emergency Operations Center at 705 EOC Drive, which is on West Street south of the Pittsburg County Jail.

The Oct. 18 event also offers free flu shots to the public and is set from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. High-dose flu vaccine which is recommended for who are at least 65 years of age will not be available at either of the flu clinics, health department personnel said.

Those receiving flu shots through the clinics do not have to bring along insurance verification or anything else, health department officials said.

Busby said an important ground rule is in effect.

"No dogs in the vehicles," she said, adding that service animals are fine.

Busby said dogs sometimes think the nurse giving a flu shot is harming the person getting the vaccination and have rushed to the defense. 

Busby and Health Department District Nurse Manager Melissa Locke said the flu clinics were made possible through the health department partnering with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

It's all part of an exercise to determine how well the regional medical response system can team up with county health departments in case mass immunizations are needed during a public health emergency, such as an infectious disease outbreak.

"This is a great opportunity for us to practice our capabilities while offering a service to the public," Pittsburg County/Regional Health Department Administrator D'Elbie Walker said in a statement issued by the agency.

"Flu season is here and we encourage everyone over the age of 6 months to receive a flu shot," she said.

For those who are unable to or prefer not to participate in either of the drive-through clinics, the Pittsburg County Health Department offers free-flu shots on Monday through Friday at the health department. Just walk in and ask for a vaccination, nurses said.

Locke said those who especially need to get vaccinations because they are at high risk of getting seriously ill if they get the flu include pregnant women, children younger than 5, and individuals with chronic conditions including diabetes, asthma, chronic heart issues and lung disease.

In addition to the dive-through programs and the influenza vaccinations available at the health department, Busby said the health department also conducts 27 outreach clinics.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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