By Angela Toda
Healthcare professionals recommend you get your annual flu shot now—and are adding new ways to make it as safe and convenient as possible.
Annual flu shots are more important than ever to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lessening flu cases helps to avoid a “twindemic” and adding strain on the health care system.
International Community Health Services (ICHS) is giving streamlined “one-stop” flu shot events to help increase the number of people who get vaccinated. Out-of-towner Anna Rosanova recently stopped by the ICHS Medical Dental Clinic in the Chinatown-International District. She and her husband were in the area to visit relatives, and were able to walk in, get their shots, and walk out within minutes. ICHS also offers similar “fast and easy” vaccinations through its on-site pharmacies, as well as making it easy to include a flu shot with a regular doctor’s visit or appointment.“
I try to get it every year just to lower the chances of getting sick,” said Rosanova, a clinical dietician. She said the only time she ever got the flu was the year she didn’t get vaccinated. “The other reason is, if we get COVID, I want to know that it’s COVID, not the flu.”
Patients and ICHS staff give the quick, in-and-out a thumbs up.
“Patients love it,” said Yoyo Wu, ICHS medical assistant. She pointed out that ICHS multilingual staff also speak a number of languages, which helps the process. “It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not. Just walk in.”
The best time to go is before the flu starts circulating in the community, which according to the CDC peaks between December and February.
“You definitely want to make sure you have been vaccinated by the end of October,” said Lisa DiFedele, ICHS infection prevention and control administrator. Age can be a consideration. Immunity wanes faster in older people and takes two weeks to develop. “Those over 65 might want to wait until October to create a longer immunity period.”
Experts say it is better to get your vaccination too early or too late versus not at all. Many COVID-19 and flu symptoms look the same, so getting vaccinated will help narrow a diagnosis. “Given we are slowly heading towards the influenza season, anything we can do to differentiate and figure out whether this is flu or COVID is helpful,” said Dr. Lakshmi Deepa Yerram, ICHS medical director. “A key difference between COVID-19 and influenza is that we can treat influenza if we catch it early, but there’s not much as far as treatment goes, for COVID-19.”
Flu, COVID-19, and the common cold might each show signs of cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, and headaches. Generally, flu and COVID-19 symptoms are more intense than cold symptoms, while a loss of taste and smell is a clear sign of COVID-19.
“Anything we can do to differentiate and figure out whether this is flu or COVID is helpful.”
Dr. Lakshmi Deepa Yerram
“If you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms, you should immediately call your doctor, who may advise getting tested for both COVID-19 and influenza,” said DiFedele. “The results will help guide your recovery and prevent you from spreading illness to others.”
It’s possible to get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. If this happens, you can become quite ill.
“Your symptoms can be much more intense, up to the point that you might need hospitalization,” said Yerram. For this reason, people in high risk categories, including the elderly, young children, and pregnant women, need to be especially vigilant about getting flu vaccinations. Even though the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and long-term implications has been downplayed in children, they can develop serious complications.
“We have had an unprecedented year, a stressful year,” said Yerram. “Get the flu vaccine to protect yourself, and your family and friends, especially the ones that are high risk. Let’s reduce the stress that this year has already put upon us, the health care system, and the nation in general.”
Call 206-788-3700 for more information about getting a flu shot at one of International Community Health Services’ pharmacies or clinics. All children in Washington state receive flu vaccines for free through age 18. Flu vaccine is covered through most insurance plans for adults and by Medicare part B. ICHS welcomes all people, regardless of insurance status or income. You will not be denied care if you