RICHMOND, Va. -- The health department is offering free flu shots during two drive-up vaccination events in Richmond.
"Get your flu shot this year to stay healthy—getting the flu wears your immune system down, which is not a good thing in times of COVID-19!" officials with the Richmond City Health Department said. "Flu vaccines will be more available than ever this year. Protect the vulnerable and get your shot!"
The drive-up vaccination events will are scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 1- 4 p.m. at at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School (1000 Mosby Street in Richmond) and Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 1 - 4 p.m. at Huguenot High School (7945 Forest Hill Avenue in Richmond).
Officials stressed that getting the flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical.
“There’s about 30,000-40,000 deaths every year from the flu and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations,” Karen Carle, R.N. said. “We need hospital beds and other resources available to treat patients with COVID-19.”
The coronavirus has killed more than 246,000 people in the U.S. this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, that’s more than the previous five flu seasons combined.
Estimated flu season deaths:
Total 2015-2020: 178,000
Still, any uptick in hospitalizations because of the flu could further strain hospitals already dealing with COVID-19.
"The flu vaccine is 40%-60% effective and lessens flu symptoms if the flu is contracted," officials said. "Most people do not experience side effects from the vaccine, and when they do, side effects tend to be mild."
The flu vaccine is recommended for those six months and older.
Officials noted folks with insurance should get their flu shot at their doctor's office, pharmacy or urgent care clinic.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.