Flu vaccine shots are now available on Capitol Hill, but distribution will look different than years past due to heightened concerns about coronavirus. Health experts say the threat of COVID-19 makes getting a flu shot even more of an imperative.
The Office of the Attending Physician will administer flu shots at two locations in the Capitol complex, down the spiral staircase in the Capitol Visitors’ Center in SCV200 and on the House side in Longworth B248 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.
The flu shots are available to thousands of legislative staffers, Capitol Police, Architect of the Capitol employees, restaurant workers, journalists and others who work in the Capitol complex, but those numbers have dropped sharply since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March.
“Availability is likely to be staggered throughout the season,” according to the Attending Physician’s website.
Like previous years, the flu shot supply in Congress is not limitless and the OAP receives batch shipments from the manufacturer.
“This may lead to temporary pauses in vaccine distribution, but we anticipate an ultimately sufficient amount to treat the Congressional community,” says the OAP website.
Health experts are saying that flu shots are even more crucial than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance that flu shots can help to reduce the overall burden of respiratory illness to protect vulnerable populations and the capacity of the health system.
As cold and flu season move in, there are concerns that people with flu symptoms will rightfully be concerned that they have COVID-19 and flood care centers.
Many members of the House and Senate are among the “older people” category that the CDC says is particularly vulnerable to influenza.
Those seeking a flu shot on Capitol Hill must bring their congressional ID badge and a flu screening questionnaire, which is available on the Attending Physician’s website. Face coverings are required and the OAP recommends loose fitting clothing that allows for sleeves to be rolled up past the elbow.
This CQ Roll Call reporter, armed with pre-filled out questionnaire, was in and out of the Capitol Visitors’ Center site in less than four minutes on Tuesday.
The two locations take into consideration both the reduced number or workers at the Capitol during the pandemic and a need for larger spaces to implement social distancing.
In previous years the vaccine was available at 10 OAP health units across Capitol Hill and lines would sometimes develop during busy lunchtime windows.