Augustine Ortiz was energetic and prepared as he walked up to Queen City Park to get a flu shot late Monday morning.
The Victoria resident laughed, sang and chatted with friends as he laid out the required documents and filled out paperwork before getting the vaccine.
Like many others, Ortiz said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has “really put him out,” made money tight and made day-to-day life more challenging. When he heard about the no-cost flu shot clinic for low-income and homeless residents, which was hosted by the city of Victoria, making a decision to go was easy, he said.
“It’s hard to get by and get this done because of the struggles we all go through,” he said. “This definitely helps.”
The Victoria Fire Department partnered with local health care providers and nonprofits to provide the clinic on Monday through Wednesday. Vaccinations are being given out by fire department personnel as well as providers with Citizens Medical Center and DeTar Healthcare System.
Representatives from nonprofits and groups including Mid-Coast Family Services and the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition were present to work with residents at the event.
Sharon Derrington, an emergency solutions grant coordinator with Mid-Coast Family Services, was among those representatives walking residents through the clinic on Monday. Derrington, who said she started her position with Mid-Coast three months ago, focuses on rapid rehousing and homeless prevention.
Offering free flu shots is “such a blessing” for the community, Derrington said, since not all residents have insurance or an easy route to get a flu shot otherwise.
“Not everyone can run to CVS or Walgreens to get a flu shot, or do what a lot of people take for granted,” she said. “It’s a gift to offer this.”
The clinic is funded by Community Development Block Grant coronavirus funds that were provided to the city through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The clinic is the city’s first big public health initiative, said Victoria Fire Chief Tracy Fox, adding that it’s been a goal to be more involved with public health in the community.
Providing the flu shots at no cost to Victoria’s more vulnerable populations will hopefully help keep residents healthy, and, in turn, avoid putting a burden on local hospitals, Fox said.
“A lot of people might not be able to get a flu shot anywhere else, so it helps to provide that for them and keep pressure off of our hospitals,” he said. “That’s more important than ever with the pandemic.”
The city purchased 350 vaccines through the grant funding and allotted 200 for this three-day event, Fox said. Staff is looking into scheduling another event to give out the rest at a later date.
Bruce Schultz, who was among those getting a flu shot Monday, said it was actually his first flu shot ever. The Victoria resident said he was talked into getting the shot by his sister and encouraged others to do the same, especially since they are being offered at no cost.
“Everybody should have one,” he said. “A lot of people need this.”
A total of 22 doses of the flu vaccine were given out on Monday, Fox said later in the day. Though the first day started off slow, Fox said he hoped more people would take advantage of the clinic on Tuesday and Wednesday. The response from the public, he said, has been positive.
“People coming have been nothing but grateful,” Fox said.