The COVID-19 fourth wave is waning across the nation, but health care providers and facilities have not let down their collective guards knowing that the seasonal flu can be both deadly and overwhelming to the health system.

Rural providers in the Capital Area’s northern region that includes Zachary and the Felicianas are making the call to roll up sleeves in the 2021-2022 fight against influenza.

Dr. Maria North-Scott with Lane Primary Care said that COVID-19 and the flu are viruses, but the similarities end there with no crossover protection to patients.

“Just because COVID has kind of predominated our lives for the last couple of years, the flu is still a contagious disease that is still present and hasn't gone away,” she said. “Anyone can get the flu, but it tends to be more dangerous for some people like infants, people who are 65 years and older, pregnant women, and those people who have certain health conditions and weakened immune systems. They are at the greatest risk of developing flu complications and difficulties from the from catching the flu.”

North-Scott said she is already seeing patients who test positive for the flu, so it is still important to get protection from both COVID and the flu by getting both vaccines. While some antibiotics can combat different bacterial infections, the flu and COVID-19 need specific vaccines. “Unfortunately, for viruses, there's not a lot of medications that we can use to help with the treatment, once you have developed a viral infection,” she said. “It's best to approach our care with prevention — trying to prevent us from catching a virus in the first place.”

Julie McLin, Lane’s director of marketing, said appointments can be made to get flu shots at Lane Primary Care and Lane Pediatric. Walk-in flu shots are given at Fast Lane, Lane’s urgent care clinic.

St. Francis Rural Health Clinic serves the West Feliciana Parish area and is also providing flu shots in its adult and pediatric clinics. Jimmy Johnston, Rural Health Clinic manager, said the protocol and procedures are the same at their two clinics affiliated with West Feliciana Parish Hospital. “We’re a tight-knit community up here in West Feliciana Parish, so all of our patients are typically aware that they just come in at a time that works best for them,” he said. Some patients like to get it early, some patients prefer to wait until later in the year to get it.”

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Johnston said last year’s flu vaccines were delayed, and the clinics didn’t get the flu vaccines until mid-October. The high-dose shots were not delivered until November. By that time, some residents had gotten their shots from local pharmacies. “Fortunately, this year we did receive both our regular flu shot and our high-dose flu shot in September.,” he said.

McLin and Johnston both mentioned that the high-dose shot is a stronger flu vaccine reserved for people 65 years old and older.

Johnston added that the rural health clinic status helps his group pair the flu vaccination with a face-to-face exam with a provider. “It’s just for a quick check that helps make sure that there's nothing new going on with the patient and continue the rapport and continuity of care,” he said.

Clinics in East Feliciana are also equipped to provide flu vaccines in schools. RKM Primary Care has clinic locations in Jackson, Slaughter, and Clinton Elementary and Clinton Lower Elementary School. In addition to getting flu shots at the clinics, residents can call the main location and arrange for the vaccine in a school-based location.

RKM Primary Care is a network of nonprofit, federally qualified health centers that operate patient-centered medical homes in several parishes. From more information, call 1-844-RKM-4YOU.

To arrange for flu shots from St. Francis Rural Health clinics, call (225) 635-3269.

Appointments at Lane Primary Care can be made by calling (225) 654-3607. FASTLane After Hours Urgent Care offers walk-in flu shots at 19900 Old Scenic Highway, Suite H. For more information, call (225) 570-2618.