Fire department program delivers free vaccines to keep flu from spreading

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The El Paso Fire Department is promoting community wellness through its Vaccinations for Health program to fight the flu.

The department sponsored seven events this spring, extending additional dates due to the high demand for vaccinations, officials said.

Last month, five events were open to the public at the Safety & Health Outreach Center, in Central El Paso.

The Vaccinations for Health program is a collaboration between the El Paso Fire Department and the El Paso Department of Public Health, according to the company’s mission statement.

“We started the outreach in actual clinics in October 2014, but three years before that, there was a lot of administrative work, getting the money, outlining how the program was going to be delivered,” said El Paso Fire Department Deputy Chief Robert Arvizu.

Deputy Chief & Assistant Fire Chief

Deputy Fire Chief Robert Arvizu, left, and Assistant Fire Chief Terry Kebschull are promoting community wellness, which includes vaccinations for the influenza. Photo by Eddie Castro, Borderzine.com Photo credit: Eddie Castro

Free flu vaccinations are available for people 65 years and older. Blood pressure and glucose screenings were also provided to residents.

Pneumonia vaccines also were made available to people 65 years and older.

“People in age groups of 50 years and over are not proactive in our community about healthcare,” Arvizu said.

City statistics showed that 40 percent of clients were 60 years or above from 2016 to 2017.

“It is the older members of the community that take advantage of these programs, which is what want because they are the individuals that really need to be protected,” Arvizu said.

In 2017, free flu vaccinations were provided throughout September, October and December.

The flu season tends to start most commonly during the fall and winter months, and often begins to increase in October and November, while peaking in December and February, according to health officials.

“Our city is near a million people, so the more services we can give to the community the better off the community is,” Arvizu said.

“I came here because I have been watching the news lately and I am concerned with how the flu is impacting not just us, but the entire nation,” said Central El Paso resident Maria Lopez, 38. “I saw in the news that the fire department was giving out free flu shots and I decided to protect myself,” she said.

“I really don’t do this too often, but like I said, watching the news and reading about reported deaths related to the flu in our city really puts things into perspective,” said Lopez. “If the city is offering incentives such as these, then I’ll take advantage of it.

Parents wanting to take their children to flu events sponsored by the EPFD Safety & Outreach Center will not be allowed.

People, 18 years and younger are not eligible for The Vaccinations for Health program.

“We don’t want to take that liability,” Arvizu said. “Our health director also says that it is really important for children to see a physician that sees them annually.”

“I wish I could’ve brought my child to get his vaccine, but I understand the rules set forth by the city and the fire department,” said Central El Paso resident Manuel Rodriguez, 42. “Sometimes going to the doctor can get expensive really quick, so anything I could do to save money helps.”

“I’d rather spend money taking my son to the doctor, than spending it on myself because he is what matters to me,” Rodriguez said.

The goal of the program is to increase the overall wellness of the community.

Local media outlets are promoting events being sponsored by the EPFD.

“I heard about this event on the news, and I’m a school teacher, and I don’t want to get my students sick,” said Graciela Pacheco, an El Paso resident.

Residents are encouraged to keep updated on future events and learn more about programs like Vaccinations for Health on the fire department and city’s websites.

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