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Free flu shots available Saturday

Shots will be available Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lot of Kenai Central High School.

As winter approaches and flu season sets in, local health care providers are teaming up to provide free flu shots to residents of the Kenai Peninsula.

Shots will be available Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Kenai Central High School and are free for anyone over the age of 6 months.

The event will be drive-thru style, and anyone wishing to get a flu shot must wear a mask and maintain social distancing while at the high school.

Only the standard quadrivalent vaccine will be administered on Saturday. No high-dose vaccines will be available.

The flu shots are provided by Kenai Public Health in coordination with Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the borough’s Office of Emergency Management, Capstone Clinic, Peninsula Community Health Services, Surgery Center of Kenai, Alaska Army National Guard, Southern Region EMS, Central Peninsula Hospital and the LeeShore Center.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink spoke about flu shots during a press conference Wednesday evening, and reported that more Alaskans have gotten their flu shot this year than in years prior, in part due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Oct. 20, 117,044 Alaskans have received their flu vaccine this year. At this time last year that number was 95,036, and in 2018 there were 84,049 vaccines administered by this time.

The biggest increase in vaccinations is among people 65 and older, with 32,214 vaccinations this year compared with 23,314 in 2019.

COVID-19 is more widespread in the U.S. and is deadlier than influenza, Zink said, but severe cases of influenza can still lead to hospitalizations and death. Zink said that everyone should get their flu shot this year in order to prevent a “dual pandemic” and ensure that as many resources as possible are available to treat patients with COVID-19.

It’s really important that we get a flu vaccine this year so we that we don’t get more people in the hospital from influenza and from COVID,” Zink said. “We want to make sure those beds are available and minimize the transmission so we don’t have people sick and in the hospital and dying.”

Last year, Alaska’s fatality rate from influenza was .14% and the national rate was .05%. Alaska’s current COVID fatality rate is .63%, and nationwide the fatality rate is 3%. Since February of this year, the number of Americans who have died from COVID is 30 times higher than the number of deaths from influenza, according to Zink’s presentation. Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, which has been tracking the pandemic worldwide, puts the U.S. fatality rate at 2.7%.

Children between the ages of 1 and 14 are slightly more likely to die of the flu than from COVID, which Zink said is another good reason to get a flu shot, but every other age group is more vulnerable to COVID-19.

For more information about flu shots, call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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