San Diego, California - The flu vaccine is here.

And now that the influenza vaccine is readily available across the region, the County Health and Human Services Agency is encouraging the public to get vaccinated.

“Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated now before flu season arrives,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The vaccine is safe and effective. All San Diegans should get vaccinated to avoid getting sick and spreading the virus to others.”

Last season, 342 people died from complications from the flu, 255 more than the previous season and the highest total since County began tracking flu deaths nearly 20 years ago. The majority of the people who died were over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions. Two pediatric flu deaths were also reported last year.

One of the reasons for the high number of deaths was that the region and the country experienced a severe flu season. However, the high number of deaths identified locally was also due to the County’s broad surveillance and use of detailed reporting systems.

Wooten said people with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to experience serious complications from influenza, but healthy persons could unexpectedly have severe illness that leads to disability and death. People who get the flu may be contagious for a full day before they start to feel symptoms and consequently spread the disease to vulnerable family members.

Where to get a flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months or older get vaccinated against the flu. It takes about two weeks for immunity to develop.

The vaccine is especially recommended for:

  • People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if your symptoms are under control
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk

This season’s flu vaccine offers protection against several strains of the flu, including influenza A H3N2, pandemic H1N1-like and influenza B strains. The CDC estimates about 163 to 168 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this season.

The influenza vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. People without medical insurance can go to a community clinic or a County public health center.

“People should get vaccinated by the end of October, before the flu season gets underway,” Wooten said.

In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Use hand sanitizers
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others

Visit or call 2-1-1 San Diego to find a list of County locations. The County provides free vaccinations as part of the County’s Live Well San Diego vision of healthy, safe and thriving residents and communities.