State health officials are urging people to get vaccinated for the flu to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations during a pandemic that has already strained hospital capacity.

The Department of Health recommended Hawaii residents get vaccinated by the end of October.

“Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system,” said Immunization Branch Chief Ron Balajadia in a statement. “Getting your flu shot also helps to conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.”

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii began drive-thru flu shot clinics earlier this month. Kaiser Permanente Hawaii

Multiple Hawaii hospitals are offering free flu shots.

The Queen’s Health System is offering flu shots at drive-thru clinics on Oahu beginning Sunday. No appointment is necessary. Forms, eligibility information and a drive-thru location schedule is available online.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii began its drive thru flu shot clinics Sept. 5. Clinic locations and a schedule is also online.

Symptoms of flu are similar to those of COVID-19: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Having the flu and COVID-19 at once could pose higher risk of health complications. A United Kingdom study of 58 hospitalized patients found the risk of death more than doubled among those who were infected with both.

“It is especially important this year since we want our hospitals to be available to all members of our community and not be overwhelmed with flu and COVID patients,” said Jill Hoggard Green, president and CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems.

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