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Kaiser Permanente rolls out drive-through flu shots

With COVID-19 in the background, physicians are urging everyone to get a flu shot this year. Pictured, Brae Pate, a licensed vocational nurse, prepares a flu shot in the drive-through area for a member at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center during the first week of the flu vaccination program.

Kaiser Permanente is offering convenient drive-through and outdoor walk-up flu shots at its medical centers across Northern California to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members can see flu shot clinic locations and operating hours on the Kaiser Permanente website.

At the drive-through clinics, members will simply put their arm out the car window, get the shot, and be off. Members visiting walk-up clinics will be spaced 6 feet apart to minimize contact with others.

In addition to the website, members can call the Kaiser Permanente Northern California flu hotline to get more information at 1-800-573-5811.

“We are doing everything we possibly can and are committed to providing a very safe environment to get a vaccine,” said Randy Bergen, MD, clinical lead for the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Flu Vaccine Program.

Kim Dizon, a licensed vocational nurse, works at the drive-through flu shot clinic at Kaiser Richmond Medical Center in early September.

The flu, with its fever, headache, and cough, can be deadly for the very young and the very old, and a sickly ordeal at the very least for those in between. In the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimated that up to 56 million people in the U.S. got the flu, as many as 740,000 were hospitalized, and up to 62,000 died.

Flu and COVID-19

An added danger to the flu season this year is that a person who gets the flu is more likely to get a secondary infection, including COVID-19, because the flu weakens your immune system.

“We are concerned that if you don’t get the flu vaccine and you get the flu, your risk of getting COVID-19 will go up and your risk of getting sicker with COVID will go up,” Dr. Bergen said.

Little is known about what a co-infection of COVID-19 and the flu at the same time would look like, but it likely would be severe, he said.

“We are doing everything we possibly can and are committed to providing a very safe environment to get a vaccine.”

Another good reason to get protected against the flu, Dr. Bergen said, is that a person who gets the flu will likely confuse the symptoms with those of COVID-19.

“The more people who get vaccinated, the fewer there will be who get flu symptoms they think are COVID,” Dr. Bergen said. “And that will have a positive benefit on the health system and the mental health of our members.”

Goal of More than 2.5 Million Vaccinations 

Last year Kaiser Permanente vaccinated about 1.8 million members in Northern California, and Dr. Bergen said he hopes the numbers will rise to more than 2.5 million this year.

In addition to the drive-through and walk-up vaccination clinics, members who are visiting their doctors in person will be offered the shot, Dr. Bergen said.


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