The National City Fire Department is hosting free, weekly influenza vaccinations Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fire Station 34, now through December National City Fire Capt. and Paramedic Scott Robinson, who heads up the program said roughly 1,500 participants are expected to show up by the time the clinics wrap up in December.
Although they will not turn anyone away, the goal is to offer vaccinations to uninsured or underinsured National City residents. The vaccines themselves are funded through the state of California and distributed through a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services while the local program is supported by both American Medical Response and the National City Police and Fire Foundation.
Ideally, Robinson said, the flu vaccines will cut down on the number of 911 calls the department receives each year when residents get sick and are in need of emergency help.
“If you have no insurance, 911 becomes medical care,” Robinson said.
The fire captain, who holds an M.A. in Public Health, approached Chief of Emergency Services Frank Parra with a proposal to improve public health in National City and was given the green light to establish the clinics and use them as a conduit for reaching residents with information on social services.
Robinson said they have tried to reach out to all residents, including homeless residents through the non-profit Alpha Project, and targeted information for Sweetwater High School students.
Besides having had a few high schoolers come to the station for their annual flu shot, Robinson said they often glean about 15-20 homeless residents who can be provided with information about other social services when they turn up for the clinic.
The annual clinics, now in their third year, were due for an expansion prior to the pandemic, and were going to serve as a starting point for other outreach services.
For example community research had shown a high number of residents wanted fall prevention classes, Robinson said. Spring 2019 had been set aside for research, with some public classes anticipated for Spring 2020.
“Then, COVID happened and everything went on hold. We’re now looking at Spring 2022 for some of those classes,” Robinson said.
In the meantime, Robinson said, program coordinators have expanded the flu vaccine clinics to provide outreach to residents who might benefit from other service programs.
Representatives from service organization MAAC were on hand just outside the door to the fire station, where they provided information on the emergency rental and utility assistance program in National City and Imperial Beach while people waited their turn in line for the shot.
“This is a good way to reach people who might not have the information. We try to give them the right information and help with financial assistance,” MAAC Outreach Coordinator Gabriela Farias said.
Inside the fire station, nursing students in their senior year at Point Loma Nazarene University administered Tuesday’s shots at four immunization stations under the supervision of Graduate student Iman Autman, 32, who worked at San Ysidro Health for six years and said partnership programs like this are “a great way to effectively prevent disease” in the community.
No identification is required for the shot, Robinson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccine.
Fire Station 34 is located at 343 East 16th St. in National City.