A worker gives the patient the flu vaccine while in the car. Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

As Los Angeles County prepares for yet another stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, another public health danger looms in the Northern Hemisphere. Much less deadly, but still highly contagious, is another possibly dangerous strain of flu. 

Over the years, vaccines have been given to the public in order to avoid major outbreaks of the influenza virus. This year, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is opening up various clinics throughout Southern California that will be offering free flu shots for individuals six months and older. The Valencia clinic was one of the four locations offering vaccines on Saturday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. 

With many hospitals filling up during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Mona Patel, Vice President of Ambulatory Operations, expresses high concern for the possibility of two dangerous viruses affecting the public. 

“I’m very worried about the convergence of our current pandemic and upcoming flu,” said Patel. “Right now we haven’t seen many cases of flu yet, and we are concerned that it may be hitting us next February or March, according to the county.” 

A patient filling out paperwork for flu vaccine. Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

To avoid a high number of flu cases, Patel advises most people ages six months and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as it can protect them and people around. 

“It takes about two weeks to reach its maximum effect,” Patel stated. “We always say the earlier you get the vaccine, it could potentially be better. Every year, seasonally, it’s different. It usually occurs anywhere between November to March.” 

A worker gives the patient the flu vaccine while in the car. Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Valencia residents who have received the flu shot are feeling good about getting vaccinated. Marcelo Medrano explains that he feels safer and more prepared for an upcoming flu season. 

“Since I am a diabetic, it’s important that I get one,” said Medrano. “I feel that the more people get their shots, the better chance we have at avoiding two pandemics.” 

But how effective will these flu shots really be? Dr. Patel explains that predictions are made about what type of flu strain could be coming in. Vaccines are made for the possible strain, and protection rates are evaluated. 

Another part of the equation is what happens in the body during a flu shot. It’s not rocket science, but a lot happens for a vaccine to become effective. 

“A killed portion of the virus is injected into the body,” Patel explains. “The reason why you want to do that is to generate antibodies. But when you experience symptoms, it’s not the flu, it’s a reaction to the immunization.” 

All future flu shot clinics provided by the hospital will still be administering all safety guidelines in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Valencia location administered shots outdoors with a drive-up process with families staying in their car. 

“We wanted to do it outdoors because, thinking about our current pandemic, being physically distant and making sure our teams have appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) is the safest way possible,” said Patel. 

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will be holding more free flu shot clinics in the future throughout Southern California. To look for more locations and times, patients can visit the hospital’s website at www.chla.org

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