The Sylva Herald, by Beth Lawrence

Jackson County commissioners voted unanimously to allow the health department to temporarily suspend fees for flu shots as a measure to help meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials nationwide are worried that a typical fall and winter rise in flu cases could place undue strain on hospitals already caring for COVID-19 patients.

“As you all know, we’re dealing with the pandemic and the flu season on the way,” Public Health Director Shelly Carraway told the board. “This year is going to be even more crucial for as many folks to get the flu immunization as possible.”

To make the flu vaccine more easily accessible, the health department has planned mobile clinics and expanded hours at its permanent location including weekend hours.

Not only will access be expanded, more vaccines will be available. 

“With the concerns about the strain on our healthcare system this fall if we were to have a bad flu along with COVID in play, the CDC actually is providing additional flu vaccines for adults with a focus on adults that are at increased risk from flu complications because those are the ones that’ll strain our healthcare system,” Carraway said.

The state has also suggested health departments remove possible financial barriers. The recommendation led Jackson County Department of Public Health to request commissioners suspend vaccine fees this flu season. The department will continue to bill insurance companies who usually cover the full cost of their client’s immunization.

Drive through clinics begin in October for flu shots only. No appointment is necessary.

Clinics will be held at Jackson County Department of Public Health 154 Medical Park Loop.Dates are 9-11 a.m. Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 4-6 p.m. Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27. For more information, call 586-8996.