Seattle government and medical leaders are urging residents to get influenza vaccinations, both to protect against the seasonal flu and to minimize pressure on hospitals and clinics that are grappling with COVID-19.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get your vaccination this year,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a virtual news conference Tuesday.
The Seattle Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA) has partnered with Seattle Public Schools, the city of Seattle and Public Health – Seattle & King County to offer walk-up/drive-thru flu shots at more than a dozen schools and other public sites in and near Seattle, Durkan’s office said.
The vaccinations should be covered for people with health insurance, and people without insurance will receive shots at no cost, Durkan’s office said.
For people who drive through, “Everything will be done from your car,” with wait times no longer than 10 minutes, said Jake Scherf, SVNA’s chief executive officer.
SVNA has provided about 30,000 flu shots at school-based vaccination sites in recent weeks, Scherf said. It plans to provide up to 15,000 more in the coming weeks.
Seattle is contributing $150,000 in federal funding, including for SVNA to provide vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday and on Oct. 31 at Genesee Park in South Seattle, the mayor’s office said. There will be extra support for people with language barriers at Genesee Park, Durkan’s office said.
People seeking flu shots at the SVNA sites should make appointments at seattlevna.com, which lists the dates and hours for each site. They should wear face coverings to their appointments.
Someone with flu symptoms can look like someone with COVID-19 symptoms, said Dr. John Lynch, infection-control director at Harborview Medical Center.
“Preventing people from getting influenza will make everything easier” for Harborview and other health care providers, Lynch said.
“We need to keep beds available” for COVID-19 patients,” he added.
Seattle has been weathering the COVID-19 pandemic better than most other major U.S. cities, Durkan said. But residents must continue to wear masks and practice distancing, said Patty Hayes, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Public Health and its partners are providing more than 100,000 flu vaccinations this fall, including at homeless shelters, homeless encampments and correctional facilities, Hayes said.
King County residents can find providers and information at kingcounty.gov/findaclinic, she said. They can also call Public Health’s immunization office at 206-296-4774 or hotline at 206-296-4949.
“We’re expecting this fall and winter to be very challenging,” Hayes said.
COVID-19 case numbers are climbing in Western Washington counties at “an alarming rate,” the state’s Department of Health announced Tuesday. In King County, the Department of Health has confirmed 25,329 diagnoses and 800 deaths.
Lynch described flu vaccinations as “incredibly powerful tools.” Last year, however, only 47% of Americans got shots, he said.
“Every flu season is unique,” Lynch said. “This year, we need to prepare more than ever.”