In a year altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the way the annual flu season is handled had to be altered. Stores like QFC and the Pierce County Health Department have put time aside to make free vaccinations more accessible to the public.
“It’s really important to get a flu shot as soon as possible and, because COVID-19 and the flu share similar symptoms, it’s important to be protected from the flu to avoid a twin pandemic,” said Marci Reynolds, the pharmacy coordinator at QFC.
Although COVID-19 and the flu are entirely different viruses, the question of if having COVID-19 can affect your chances of contracting the flu has been raised. It’s been found that people can contract the seasonal flu and COVID-19 at the same time and that those who have had COVID-19 can still contract the flu.
QFC is one of many companies distributing free flu shots at their various locations. According to Reynolds, QFC pharmacies received the flu shot vaccinations in August and have been administering them since. She explained how their pharmacy doesn’t stop administering shots until they run out. As of writing, QFC pharmacies still have vacancies available.
The number of people seeking out flu shots this year has risen as the pandemic continues.
“Our demand definitely is higher this year, which is great and just means that more people are being protected with everything going on,” said Reynolds.
The demand for flu shots this year has been so high that the Pierce County Health Department and the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management have worked together to distribute vaccinations for the first time ever.
“We knew that the health department had their own flu shot program and we wanted to help to make sure that we could get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Mike Halliday, public information specialist for the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.
Halliday explained that the department did informal polling at multiple of their COVID-19 testing sites, asking people if they were interested in getting their flu shots. Many of those tested at their sites said that they would appreciate it if they also had a program for flu vaccinations.
Another reason departments like PCDEM recommend getting a flu shot, is to help ease the number of individuals needing medical assistance during this time.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with encouraging people to get a flu shot to reduce the number of people in the hospital system so hospitals aren’t even more overwhelmed with COVID-19 and flu patients,” said Halliday.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, pharmacies and organizations administering flu shots, like QFC and the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, have taken on the state-required safety protocols of mask-wearing, social distancing, sanitizing and limiting the number of people working together directly. Additionally, QFC has heavily recommended people go to one of their locations for a flu shot to make an appointment online beforehand.
Designed this year, Halliday recommends using findyourflushot.com to find pharmacies and organizations administering shots in the area. QFC also has a website, QFC.com/Flu, where users can enter their ZIP code and find their nearest QFC pharmacy administering shots. For more information about the flu shot vaccine, visit tpchd.org/flu.
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