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Riverside County health officials encourage flu shot amidst pandemic

Get the flu shot. That was the message from Riverside County health officials during a press conference Thursday morning in preparations for the start of flu season amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

“So, today we are starting a community campaign around getting the flu shot as a preventative and proactive measure to protect yourself and your family, and a way of helping our hospital system,” said V. Manuel Perez, Riverside County Supervisor.

“We already saw in July and August that COVID-19 alone can really strain our ICU’s and healthcare workers if there’s a lot of community spread,” said Riverside County Public Health Officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser.

Dr. Kaiser says he’s hopeful that this flu season will be milder than previous years because of the coronavirus protocols, like mask-wearing and social distancing. Despite these precautions, health officials say it’s important not to skip the vaccine. 

“Let’s take a really lousy year for the flu vaccine, where it turns out the vaccine’s effectiveness might be as low as 10 percent… even with the vaccine that badly matched, that still means a real world 10 percent reduction in your chances of getting the flu, just by getting the shot. In most years, we’re talking numbers several times that,” Dr. Kaiser said.

The flu shot is recommended for residents six months and older, and it’s especially important for those with comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, COPD, and kidney or liver failure. 

"It's increasingly important that you get a flu shot because these comorbidities can lead to poor outcomes with the flu," said Dr. Ronald McCowan, a physician for Riverside County Health.

Dr. McCowan said right now about 40 percent of African Americans, a community that was hit hard by coronavirus, get the flu vaccine.

"We need to increase this number significantly," he said.

This year’s formula is a quadrivalent vaccine, meaning it protects against four different strains of influenza.

"Typically, how they come up with what formula they're going to use in the vaccine, they look at past trends, they look at flu seasons from other parts of the world and see if that's going to be mirrored in our region here in the United States," said Dr. Andy Williams, a senior clinical pharmacist for Riverside County Health

“A common misconception is that we receive a flu vaccine and we’re immediately protected from the flu, and that’s not the case. It takes our body a little bit of time to build that immune response, typically about two weeks, so you might hear, ‘I got my flu shot last year and I got sick, so I don’t want to get this again.’ There’s a lot of reasons why that could’ve happened. It could’ve been that your immune response had not been built up yet, it could have been that maybe you did feel a little crummy after getting your flu vaccine because your immune response is starting to kick in, your body’s starting to fight off that little taste of the flu vaccine that we gave you,” he said.

County health officials also noted that the vaccine is a way to protect from virus spread amongst families during the upcoming holiday season.

County of Riverside flu shot clinic: Tentative times 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

  • Oct. 16 -- Lake Elsinore Stadium testing site
  • Oct. 19 -- Sears testing site in Riverside
  • Oct. 26 -- Indio Fairgrounds testing site

Quick 2019-2020 Flu statistics: 

  • According to the CDC for the 2019-2020 flu season started in October 1, 2019 and ended April 4, 2020 in the United States. Also in the United States the CDC reported the following for the previous flu season:
    • 39 to 56 million flu illnesses
    • 18 to 26 million flu medical visits
    • Between 400,000 and 740,000 flu hospitalizations
    • There were 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths

2020 Flu shot information: 

  • This year’s flu shot includes both A&B strains
  • It is a quadrivalent including four strains and should be a match
  • Match accuracy will not be known until later in the season, possibly November
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Taylor Begley

Taylor Begley is a Sports Anchor and Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. You can also catch her anchoring weather on the weekends. Learn more about Taylor here.

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