Health departments offer COVID-19 and flu vaccines, free COVID self-test kits
District 4 Public Health’s county health departments offer flu shots and the updated COVID-19 vaccine to provide protection against two of the three respiratory illnesses already circulating this 2023-24 season.
Visit district4health.org/make-an-appointment to schedule your visit and learn more about which COVID-19 vaccine brand your county health department currently offers for your age group. If you wish, you can schedule both vaccines for the same visit. You also may call (800) 847-4262 to make an appointment.
COVID and Influenza vaccines are covered by many insurance plans at no cost to the patient. For adults without health insurance coverage, a federal program will cover the cost of the COVID vaccine and administration fee. There is a $21.93 administration fee for the influenza vaccine for those who do not have insurance or are underinsured. Vaccines For Children (VFC)-funded COVID and influenza vaccines are available for those 6 months old to 18 years old without health insurance coverage. Unless covered by Medicaid, there is a $21.93 administration fee for those who receive the VFC-funded vaccine.
District 4 health officials also encourage eligible older adults (60 years and older) and pregnant women to talk with their primary doctor about getting the new FDA-approved RSV vaccine, which is available at select doctors’ offices and local pharmacies.
It is important to get your vaccines as soon as possible to protect yourself and loved ones by helping prevent the spread of the viruses, especially before the holidays.
Flu and COVID-19 Vaccines
Recommended by the CDC for individuals 6 months of age and older, flu and COVID vaccines cannot completely prevent someone from getting either virus. However, CDC data show flu vaccines and updated COVID vaccines are the key—especially for older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions—in reducing the risk of severe illness, long-term effects, hospitalization, and death.
Vaccines are particularly important for those at high risk of complications if they get sick, including adults 65 and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
COVID is still a major cause of serious respiratory illnesses, with more than 267,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2022, according to Johns Hopkins University data. From January to August 2023, older adults comprised 63 percent of all COVID-related hospitalizations and nearly 90 percent of COVID deaths in 2023, according to the CDC. Most of the hospitalized patients had multiple chronic conditions, and only 24 percent had received the bivalent COVID vaccine, the most updated vaccine at that time.
Many people with long-term health conditions like type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or kidney disease don’t know they have them. These conditions could put them at greater risk for severe illness if they get COVID-19, the flu or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Individuals also may be at a higher risk if they have a family history of diabetes or heart disease, are overweight, or smoke. A good first step toward learning your risk and taking charge of your health include visiting your doctor to get your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checked and to discuss ways to stay healthy.
When more people get vaccinated, they also help reduce the strain hospitals endured last year when patient beds were not only filled with cases of flu and COVID, but also with a higher-than-usual presence of individuals with RSV.
For the first time in U.S. history, this year the FDA approved a new RSV vaccine, which the CDC recommends for 1) adults over age 60 and 2) pregnant women between 32 to 36 weeks’ gestation between September and January. Individuals in these categories should talk with their primary doctor to discuss whether they should get the vaccine.
For infants, the FDA has approved an antibody therapy to help protect against this common respiratory virus if the mother did not receive the RSV vaccine during pregnancy.
COVID-19 and Flu Testing
Individuals can pick up a free COVID-19 rapid self-test in the front lobby of their local District 4 health department as supplies remain available. Each health department also offers appointments for COVID-19 PCR testing and rapid testing; visit district4health.org/locations to check your local health department’s page for more details on specific days and times.
Each U.S. household may place a new order at special.usps.com/testkits for four free COVID-19 rapid self-tests delivered directly to your home. You may also call (800) 232-0233 or TTY (888) 720-7489.
A PCR testing kit for COVID-19, flu A and flu B is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at outdoor self-service kiosks in Lamar and Henry counties:
- Lamar County Health Department – 100 Academy Drive, Barnesville
- Henry County Public Safety Annex – 108 S. Zack Hinton Parkway, McDonough
After completing a brief registration form, the kiosks dispense a test kit that includes a nasal swab, like other at-home tests, and instructions. Once the specimen is collected, it is safely packaged back into the kit and placed in the kiosk. The specimens are picked up daily and sent to an accredited lab for PCR testing. Though not required, pre-registration for testing at the kiosks is available at register.testandgo.com.
Additional prevention measures can help prevent the spread of flu, COVID and RSV:
- Regularly wash hands with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then dispose of the tissue, or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
- Avoid close contact with individuals who may be sick.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that could be contaminated with germs.
- Stay home if experiencing flu-like symptoms and remain home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without the aid of medication to prevent infecting others.
MEDIA CONTACT: Natalie Shelton