With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming flu season overlapping, Contra Costa County health officials say it's more important than ever to get vaccinated against influenza this year and are providing residents with several options for receiving free flu shots.
Due to concerns over a so-called “twindemic” or “double surge” in the coming months that will overwhelm hospitals (flu season in the Bay Area tends to peak in January or February), county health officials will be providing residents with free drive-through vaccinations at select coronavirus testing sites and will be hosting special flu vaccination clinics throughout the county.
“Getting a flu shot is one thing we all can do to ease our minds during COVID. Getting vaccinated this year means having one less thing to worry about," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get their flu shots this year," he added. "Offering flu vaccine at COVID testing sites will let people cross two things off their to-do list at once.”
For residents with insurance, under the Affordable Care Act, a flu shot is available without cost as a preventive service from most doctors and pharmacies. For those without health insurance, or anyone who finds it more convenient, there are many opportunities to get a free flu shot throughout Contra Costa County at community clinics, COVID-19 test sites or mass vaccination events.
For easy and convenient vaccinations, there are currently six coronavirus testing locations in Contra Costa County offering flu vaccine, those can be found in Antioch, Bay Point, central Concord (Monument), north Concord, Richmond and San Ramon.
Residents can view a list of testing site offering free flu shots and schedule an appointment at Contra Costa Health Services' Get Tested webpage.
Contra Costa Health Services is also offering a series of drive-through flu vaccination clinics, where residents can receive free flu shots.
The next free flu vaccination clinics will be held at the following locations:
* Thursday (Oct. 29), 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Los Medanos College 2700 E Leland Rd, Pittsburg Drive-thru.
* Friday (Oct. 30), 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Alcosta Senior & Community Center 9300 Alcosta Blvd, San Ramon Drive-thru.
"It is important to get a new flu vaccine each year. The flu vaccine offers protection for many months, but not forever. Also, the strains of influenza circulating in the community change over time, and the current vaccine offers protection against those strains" county officials said.
Each winter, thousands of people sick with flu crowd hospitals and urgent care clinics, county officials say that early and timely flu shots can prevent the disease that hospitalizes 200,000 Americans every year.
Influenza and COVID are respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, such as congestion, cough and fever, so county officials will recommend that people who have these symptoms are also tested COVID to help ensure a correct medical diagnosis -- free COVID tests are available for all Contra Costa County residents.
County officials further added that there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, but certain practices such as wearing a face covering and maintaining social distancing can help decrease the chance of exposure.
Additionally, residents should wash their hands regularly and stay home if they are sick.