(Photo via Fort George G. Meade/Flickr)

Free flu shots will be offered to people who come to any of several Contra Costa Health Services COVID-19 testing sites starting Thursday, health officials announced Wednesday.

There are currently five testing locations offering flu vaccine – two in Concord and one each in Antioch, Richmond and San Ramon. Flu shots are expected to be available at more testing sites in the near future.

Making flu shots available at COVID-19 testing sites is part of the county’s larger effort to get more people vaccinated before flu season arrives.

Contra Costa Health Services will also host a series of free one-day flu vaccination clinics in October, with dates and locations to be announced.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get their flu shots this year,” county Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said in a statement. “Offering flu vaccine at COVID testing sites will let people cross two things off their to-do list at once.”

With COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season overlapping, county health officials say it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against influenza this year. Health officials are worried about a so-called “twindemic” or “double surge” in the coming months in which hospitals could be overwhelmed by having to care for both flu patients and COVID-19 patients.

Flu vaccination is the best protection against influenza. People can get sick with COVID and the flu at the same time, Farnitano said, which increases the chances they will need to be hospitalized.

Influenza and COVID are respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, such as congestion, cough and fever. People who have these symptoms when flu season arrives should be tested for COVID-19 to help ensure a correct medical diagnosis.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID. The best way to prevent the spread of COVID is to practice physical distancing, wear face coverings when around people who don’t live with you, wash your hands regularly and stay home if you’re sick. These measures also help reduce the spread of the flu as well.

County health officials also recommend that essential workers and others with frequent close contact with people outside their own household get tested once a month for COVID, even if they don’t have symptoms.