If you are short on time and are wondering whether you should cast an early voting ballot or get a flu shot, Gwinnett County’s health officials are looking to make it possible for you do both at the same place this month.

Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale health district director Dr. Audrey Arona said the health department has traditionally offered flu shots to early voters who cast at the county’s elections headquarters in Lawrenceville. Health officials are making a bigger effort this fall to push the flu vaccine this fall because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however.

As a result of that push, health officials have been in talks with county elections officials about rotating flu shot distribution sites between all of Gwinnett’s early voting sites, throughout the entire three-week early voting period, to reach as many county residents as possible.

“Every day of early voting at the latter part of October, we plan to have a vaccine, a flu vaccine, table present so people can come in and have a vaccine then or after or before they vote,” Arona said. “We can’t be at every voting location (every day) just because of the size of our staff, but we plan to, every day, be at a location to be determined so that people who are voting have an opportunity to get their flu shot then.”

Gwinnett will have a record number of early voting sites open this year — nine locations in all — and all sites are expected to be open for three weeks of early voting, including on weekends. Early voting in Georgia begins on Oct. 12.

In Gwinnett, early voting will take place every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, until Oct. 30.

“Every day, we’ll be somewhere and hopefully we’ll be in more than one location,” Arona said. “Right now we’re just trying to get those locations clarified and the schedules and the hours with the county, we’re trying to coordinate all of that so that we can be to as many of those places as we can.”

Gwinnett County elections supervisor Kristi Royston confirmed to the Daily Post on Tuesday that the county has met with health officials about rotating flu vaccine shot availability across all of the early voting sites. Nothing had been finalized as far as expanding the availability at that point, however.

“We talked about being there if the voters wanted to be (vaccinated), not going through the line and saying ‘Here’s this,’”Royston said.

Since the health department does have a clinic located next door to the elections headquarters on Grayson Highway, flu shots have been offered at that site in the past. If flu shots are made available at the satellite locations, vaccine booths would not be located in the area where voting itself is taking place, but rather off in a side area.

“When it’s been here at the (elections office), it’s not like it’s been in our building,” Royston said. “It’s kind of to the side at their (health office) and (voters) can go over. They have signage either before of after they vote.”

What’s different about this proposal is flu shots never been offered at satellite early voting sites in addition to the headquarters site, Arona and Royston said.

Then again, voting hasn’t taken place during a global pandemic during any currently living person’s lifetime either.

“Because of the campaign where we’re really trying to push flu vaccines, we thought we would try to reach more locations than just that one site,” Arona said. “We also hope for voting numbers to be increased this year, so it’s just an opportunity to access more people who otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to get the flu vaccine.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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