Central Texas pharmacies gear up for flu season amid COVID-19 pandemic

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Pharmacies across Central Texas are preparing for an active flu season.

On Thursday, Gov. Gregg Abbott met with state health experts to discuss how the state will manage the upcoming flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local pharmacies are now solidifying plans to ensure everyone has safe access to flu vaccinations.

The staff at Tarrytown Pharmacy will get the flu vaccine in late August and start administering it at the beginning of September. In light of COVID-19, they are now considering a drive-thru flu clinic and ways to minimize traffic in busy waiting rooms.

“So we are talking about an appointment-based model where our patients can make an appointment with us to get their flu shot, so they know they will not have to wait for a long time,” said Ellie Studdard, pharmacist at Tarrytown Pharmacy.

Tarrytown operates several offsite clinics for churches, schools and local businesses. To lessen interactions, the pharmacy will offer electronic paperwork and develop customized plans for each business.

“Whether that is in a parking lot or scheduling clinic times at the pharmacy for their team and their staff, we are coming up with solutions for individual businesses and what works for them,” Studdard said.

They will keep the flu vaccination area separate from COVID-19 testing, which is in the back of their building.

Larger pharmacies like CVS tell KXAN their staff has prepared inventory anticipating a high demand. Both standard and high-dose flu vaccines are available now at CVS clinics nationwide.

New guidelines at CVS include:

  • patients will be given a COVID-19 screening questionnaire
  • patients will have their temperature taken prior to any immunization
  • patients must wear a face covering or mask (one will be provided, if needed)
  • The pharmacist or MinuteClinic provider will use personal protection equipment (PPE) and will utilize enhanced cleaning protocols between patients. 

Experts urge everyone to get a vaccine as they wait to learn more about what the prevalent strain will be this upcoming flu season.

“If you’ve had the flu vaccine, and you get a related strain, chances are you aren’t going to get the flu as badly as you would if you didn’t get the vaccine at all,” said Jaquelin Dudley, Ph.D., professor of Oncology, Molecular Biosciences, Department of Oncology at University of Texas.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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