Army veteran Erik Palin gets a flu shot

FILE — Army veteran Erik Palin gets a flu shot from Rosemary Lewis at the 21st annual Veterans Stand Down on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Yakima, Wash. The flu shots were provided by the Yakima VA Clinic.

With COVID-19 still widespread in Yakima County, health officials urge everyone 6 months of age and older to get an annual flu vaccine to help reduce the spread of the flu and its symptoms, which can be similar to COVID-19.

Flu season began this month and continues into the spring. The county may see more flu activity this year compared to last year due to more people being active and mobile, and children being back in school, the Yakima Health District said in a news release.

The flu can cause mild to severe illness and lead to hospitalization and death, even in healthy young people. Young children, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and people aged 65 and older are at high risk for flu-related complications.

COVID-19 and the flu are highly contagious respiratory illnesses that are spread in similar ways, mainly through respiratory droplets. Influenza and the common cold have similar symptoms to COVID-19. People with COVID-19 might lose their sense of taste and smell.

It is possible for people to be infected with influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, according to the health district.

A flu vaccine can be safely given at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. Health district officials encourage people to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 to help Yakima’s health care system from continuing to operate at such limited capacity. Though hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have decreased, outbreaks continue, especially in congregate living facilities.

The health district will be partnering with community organizations such as Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Community Health Plan of WA, Columbia Safety, Highland Clinic, Swofford and Halma Clinic, Nuestra Casa and schools to offer immunization clinics and flu clinics. Four are taking place in the next several days.

Thursday: Immunization clinic open to the community from noon to 5 p.m., West Valley Junior High School, 7505 Zier Road. Will offer routine childhood immunizations for children ages 0-18, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people 12 years and older and the flu vaccine to anyone 6 months and older. For adults who do not have medical insurance, a flu vaccine will cost $25.

Friday: Immunization clinic open to the community from 4 to 6 p.m., Nuestra Casa 906 E. Edison Ave, Sunnyside. Will provide the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those 12 years and older; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine for individuals 18 years and older and the flu vaccine to anyone 6 months and older.

Saturday: Flu vaccine clinic for youth from the Highland community and those who attend school in the Highland School District. Open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Highland High School, 17000 Summitview Road, Cowiche. Will provide the flu vaccine to anyone from 6 months to 18 years old. People should bring their medical insurance if they have one.

Monday: Immunization clinic open to the community from 2 to 6 p.m., Student Family Center, 105 N. Fourth Ave., Yakima. Will offer routine childhood immunizations for children ages 0-18, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 12 years and older and flu vaccine to anyone 6 months and older. For adults who do not have medical insurance, a flu vaccine will cost $25.

For more information, visit www.YakimaVaccines.org or www.YakimaTesting.org. Learn if you are at high risk for the flu and what you can do to prevent it.

Reach Tammy Ayer at tayer@yakimaherald.com or on Facebook.

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