BANGOR, Maine, Sept. 21—Widespread inoculation against the flu is even more crucial this year, according to Penobscot Community Health Care.  The health center, which serves 65,000 Mainers from Belfast to Jackman and in the Greater Bangor area, has this year’s flu vaccine available and is already dispensing it to patients.

As Maine and the nation await a potential “second wave” of the novel coronavirus, PCHC is joining providers everywhere in urging everyone to get vaccinated.  A serious flu outbreak (in 2019-20, the Maine CDC reported more than 10,000 cases of flu in Maine with more than 500 hospitalizations) could overwhelm providers and hospitals, leaving the healthcare systems less able to treat patients with COVID-19.

“Getting vaccinated against the flu is one of the easiest and effective ways to protect yourself, your family and your neighbors,” said Theresa Knowles, FNP-C, chief quality officer of PCHC. “Vaccines are available for everybody from kids to senior citizens, most are low-cost or free, and they are extremely safe.”

On Saturday, Sept. 26, from 7 a.m. to 12 noon, PCHC will hold a drive-up community flu-vaccine clinic in the parking lot of the PCHC Pediatric Center at 6 Telcom Drive. All medical insurance, including Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid (MaineCare) will be accepted. Without insurance, there will be a $30 charge. PCHC is willing to work with patients who cannot afford the vaccine.

National healthcare leaders say even a moderate flu season could intensely stress healthcare resources concurrent with a second wave of coronavirus. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set 65 percent of the population as the vaccination goal this year.  To date, only about 45 percent of Americans are vaccinated annually, and that number is lower for Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people—groups at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.

Since 2010, flu deaths in the United States have ranged from 12,000 to 61,000 annually.