Speaker- Larissa Dvorak- Mesa Fire Department, Flu Shot Program


Speaker- Larissa Dvorak- Mesa Fire Department, EMS, Engineer on Fire truck shared the Fire Departments work with immunizations.  They have been providing flu shots to Mesa Public Schools since 2002 and also provide other immunization clinics. On average they provide 10,000 vaccinations per year. 7000 flu shots this year so far.


Richard H. Dyer
Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA

Last Modified: Oct 22, 2013 04:03PM

Some 6,000 students in Mesa schools earlier this month had the opportunity to be vaccinated with a free flu shot administered by officials from the Mesa Fire and Medical Department.

“What we have done is, starting yesterday, we are going into the school system and we did about, over the last two days, 3,000 in schools,” Larissa Dvorak, a paramedic and the immunization program coordinator with the Mesa Fire and Medical Department, said Oct. 2. “And we’re doing two more days, so we’ll be doing over about 6,000 flu vaccines in Mesa Public Schools over four days.”

It is important that everyone young and old be vaccinated against the flu, she said.

“We had a very difficult flu season last year. It was one of the worst we had seen in a long time and some people had delayed getting the flu vaccine. We had a lot of really sick people. So we’re trying to get people earlier in the season and encourage them to come in,” she said at a free flu-shot clinic held at Skyline High School, 845 S. Crismon Road in Mesa. “It’s all free for everybody. We’re doing shots for 6 months and older – we’re doing free flu shots for all of those people.”

Paramedics had tables and chairs set up in the school’s auditorium. After filling out paperwork, patients received a quick flu shot administered by fire department personnel.

“So this is where we try to get the parents, the younger siblings who maybe aren’t in school or anybody in school that weren’t able to attend,” Ms. Dvorak said.

Mesa resident James Wilhelmsen, who came to the Oct. 2 clinic for a free flu shot, said he had a family member who was severely ill with the flu.

“I don’t want to get the flu. My dad got the flu years and years ago. It put him down for six weeks,” Mr. Wilhelmsen said.

Mesa resident Jill Trias brought her daughters – Skyline High School students Elaine, 16, and Elesie, 16, and Smith Junior High School student Maggie, 13 – to get their flu shots Oct. 2.

“Why? Because I want them to stay well,” Mrs. Trias said.

Fire officials used a retractable hypodermic needle at the free flu-shot clinic at Skyline High School. It is a safety mechanism for the paramedics, Ms. Dvorak said.

“As you can see, some people don’t want to hold still. It comes right back in. We don’t have to worry about an open needle flying around; it comes right back in,” she said. “I think it makes it a little less uncomfortable because it’s not a slow process of getting it out. It takes it out almost immediately.”

The flu-shot clinic was held at the high school instead of a fire station because it is a familiar place for area residents, Ms. Dvorak said,
“This is more of a public location that people are familiar with and most people know where the schools in their neighborhood are, especially the high schools. So, it just makes it easier for people to find,” she said.

First flu case of the season

The Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health on Oct. 7 confirmed the first flu case of the season – an unvaccinated child with influenza type B who was never hospitalized, according to a press release.

“Now the obvious questions, ‘How bad will this season be? Will the vaccine be protective against the strain of flu circulating?’ and the all-important ‘Should I get my flu shot?’” Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in the release. “We just don’t know yet which strain will dominate this season or how bad it will be. But we do know that the best way to protect ourselves and those around us is to get our flu vaccine.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. This year a newly available vaccine will protect against four different flu viruses; two A strains (an H3N2 and H1N1 strain) and two B strains. Most available vaccines will only protect against three strains (Only one B strain), according to the release.

Last year Arizona had more than 11,000 lab-confirmed flu cases and four children died from influenza. Maricopa County alone reported more than 5,600 lab-confirmed cases and there were no child deaths. The numbers of adults who die from influenza are not individually reported to the state, according to the release.

For information about the flu and its symptoms or where to find a flu vaccine in Arizona, click here.

Monthly immunization clinics

Flu shots will be given out at the Mesa Fire and Medical Department’s monthly immunization clinic at Fiesta Mall, 1445 W. Southern Ave., in Mesa, downstairs next to Best Buy.

“We have a regular monthly clinic we hold at Fiesta Mall, where we do all childhood immunizations,” Ms. Dvorak said. “We give every childhood vaccination that’s available, in our monthly immunization clinic. And we hold that the second Wednesday of each month at Fiesta Mall and we run that from 5 to 7 p.m. They are well attended, and we see an awful lot of kids come through there for just their regular shots.”