Mayor London Breed and health officials called on residents Thursday to get their flu shots to prevent a strain on hospitals as they are expected to continue to treat COVID-19 patients in the coming months.
The Department of Public Health said in a statement that it “strongly recommends” those aged six months and older receive the influenza vaccine, emphasizing the importance is greater this year as the flu season is overlapping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health officials expressed concerns that cases of COVID-19 and the flu could strain the resources of hospitals and urgent care clinics, but people getting the flu vaccination would alleviate those worries.
The flu season generally begins in November and peaks between December and February. It lasts until April.
“Every San Franciscan needs to get their flu shot this year,” Breed said in a statement. “This year has been hard enough dealing with COVID, and the last thing we need is a serious flu season on top of that. We all need to do our part to keep our community healthy and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed with flu patients and COVID-19 patients in the coming months.”
The vaccine protects people from coming down with the flu about two weeks after receiving the shot, the time the body needs to create the antibodies to fight it off. City officials called on people to get the vaccine before the end of October but said even if they are unable to this month they should still try and get it for protection throughout the flu season.
The flu, which is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus, has similar symptoms as COVID-19 including a fever, a cough, and fatigue. Precautions to take against contracting the flu are also similar to those advised for COVID-19 prevention, including washing hands often with soap, wearing a face covering, sneezing into your elbow and avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Health insurance gives free access to the flu vaccine, city officials said, and people are advised to schedule a flu shot with their doctor. To find flu shot locations, people can access vaccinefinder.org.
Those who lack health insurance can still obtain access to a free flu shot through the Department of Public Health and community clinics. A list of free or low-cost flu vaccinnation options is available at www.sfcdcp.org/flushots.