Atlanta homeless receive flu vaccinations from Fulton Board of Health

The Fulton County Board of Health recently sent teams to homeless shelters to administer flu shots to residents there. AJC file photo

Because of a spike in influenza or “flu” activity in the United States in recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has renewed its recommendation to get vaccinated against influenza.

In response, the Fulton County Board of Health recently implemented a proactive strategy to help stop the spread of influenza among some of Fulton’s most vulnerable population – the homeless. A team of three outreach workers from the TB Clinic joined eight Board of Health nurses to reach out to seven metro Atlanta homeless shelters.

The teams set up special influenza vaccine clinics and educated the clients about how to recognize and prevent influenza. They emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated to help stop the spread of the disease, especially among the residents living in such close quarters in the shelters. The vaccination campaign took place over a seven-day period in early February. Over 130 clients living in shelters were vaccinated.

“The homeless might not have the resources or a medical home to access the influenza vaccination,” explains Dr. Gloria Beecher, Director of Nursing, Fulton County Board of Health. “We targeted this population because they often suffer from other chronic diseases which put them at higher risks for complications if they get the flu,” Beecher further explains.

Vaccinating this vulnerable and often mobile population protects the residents in the shelters and helps to protect the health of the broader public at large. Outreach to the homeless shelters was a key strategy Fulton County BOH used to halt a deadly TB outbreak in 2014. The Board of Health was recognized by the CDC for its effective homeless outreach efforts.

The CDC says influenza activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February, although the duration and severity vary from season to season. This year, the projection is that it will continue until May so there is still time to get vaccinated.

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