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Getting a flu vaccine could save your life

Kaiser Permanente is urging members to get their flu shots starting September 12. Pictured, Kaiser Permanente employee Deborah Rivera, right, gets a vaccine at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center from Ana Morales, LVN, left.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California members can soon get their free flu shots without an appointment at any of the organization’s 21 medical centers and nearby doctor’s offices.

Members are encouraged to check here to find out when and where flu shot clinics will be available in their area.

Mateo Hernandez draws with crayons in the kids’ waiting area after receiving his vaccine at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center.

It is also safe and recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine, whether an initial shot or booster, on the same day as a flu shot, said Darvin Scott Smith, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s clinical vaccine lead for Northern California.

“We’re trying to encourage COVID-19 vaccines to be given together with flu shots whenever possible,” said Dr. Smith. “Over the last couple of years, there was some question about getting both together, but now we know that it is fine. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe to get with other vaccines.”

Dr. Smith said that even though some people still get the flu or COVID-19 after they have been vaccinated, it is still vitally important to get both.

“Both vaccines help keep people out of the hospital, and they help prevent death,” said Dr. Smith. “They also take the edge off the severity of the symptoms. People wonder what the benefit is from yet another vaccine, but again, they work really well to prevent hospitalizations and death.”

The flu vaccine’s effectiveness against medical visits for acute respiratory infections varies from year to year, ranging from 10% to 70% over the last 20 years, said Dr. Smith. The vaccine for the 2021-2022 flu season was only 16% effective.

Patricia Kirby, 77, of Richmond, said she gets the flu vaccine every year after learning the hard way that it is important to do so.

“One time I got real sick for a week and a half, and one of my friends who is a nurse said, ‘You gotta get the flu shot,’” said Kirby. “That was about 10 years ago, and I’ve been getting it every year since then.”

Last year, Kaiser Permanente administered 1.7 million flu shots in Northern California, which is about 44% of its membership, Dr. Smith said.

“Getting 100% of our members vaccinated against the flu would be great, but realistically we are shooting for 55% this year,” said Dr. Smith. “We acknowledge that people are a little vaccine fatigued. But it’s still very important to get immunity with vaccination.”




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