Chicago, Ill. (February 2021) – COVID-19 donors are playing a key role in serving vulnerable communities this winter by funding a program that offers protection against the flu.
With contributions raised through CommonSpirit Health’s national pandemic response fund, a flu vaccination program is promoting wellness and reducing emergency department visits, leading to a lower risk for both patients and caregivers for exposure to the flu and COVID-19. More than 19,000 people received flu shots provided by CommonSpirit, with a focus on reaching people in women’s centers, homeless shelters, the land of the Navajo Nation and family health centers. Drive-through clinics were established in underserved neighborhoods, making it easy and convenient to receive vaccinations.
“I would like to thank our donors for their contributions and support of CommonSpirit and the communities we serve. Your generosity prompted immediate action, coordination and excitement throughout our entire system and brought our ministry together to serve a common purpose. Our patients and communities are stronger and healthier, and our staff and volunteers found hope in helping others,” said Bob Wiebe, MD, chief medical officer at CommonSpirit.
The flu vaccine initiative was an important response to the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Heather Miller, director of physician engagement at CommonSpirit Health and lead on the flu vaccine program. While flu season is problematic every year, with our hospitals already at capacity and staffing shortage a constant struggle currently, typical flu census would have taxed the health care system with detriment to patients, staff and communities. Being able to provide flu vaccination access to underserved communities enabled families to stay healthy and at home during this time.
“The flu shot clinics were successful in ways we have not seen in the past, reaching members of our underserved communities, that prior to this year, declined vaccination,” Miller said.
One recipient in Iowa – a wife, caregiver of aging parents and mother of five who falls into this group of those previously unvaccinated against the flu – expressed gratitude for the clinic.
“We have never had a flu shot before. But with COVID-19, I felt I had to do something, anything, to protect my family and me. Thank you so much for helping us stay well,” she said.
A community leader from the African immigrant community added, "Our people do not trust hospitals. We only go in if we absolutely need to do so. These clinics not only reach us with health but they also build a bridge of trust for the future."