FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: SFDPH Media Desk: DPH.Press@sfdph.org
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San Francisco, CA - The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) encourages San Franciscans to prepare for the upcoming holiday season by taking simple measures to protect themselves and others against COVID-19 and influenza (flu).
This winter could bring a resurgence in influenza cases, and COVID-19 cases, now low, will likely increase as people travel and gather indoors. San Franciscans are encouraged to prepare by getting their COVID-19 bivalent booster, annual flu vaccine, and connecting to a health care provider to learn if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments. Additionally, keeping items on hand such as masks and COVID-19 rapid test kits that can help prevent and manage illness while reducing the spread of viruses to loved ones and others.
“We know how important it is for people to celebrate the holidays together. We are so fortunate that this year we have vaccines to cover nearly all ages, and new boosters that are more protective against the dominant strains of virus,” said Public Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip. “Getting your COVID-19 bivalent booster is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. And we encourage people to take care of themselves in other ways, so they are prepared if they get sick.”
For some people, COVID-19 can cause long term symptoms after infection. While vaccines can reduce these risks, they do not eliminate them. People should factor this into their prevention planning for the holidays. Additionally, this year there are special “senior” flu vaccines recommended for people ages 65 and older that are designed to generate a stronger immune response than the standard flu vaccine in older adults. COVID-19 and flu vaccines may be given together, and both vaccines are widely available across health systems, in pharmacies, and in community health clinics.
SFDPH is also aware of the rising cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the United States. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While the vast majority of people with RSV recover without incident, it can sometimes result in more serious illness in infants and older adults.
While there is no vaccine for RSV, it is important to protect those who are at risk of severe RSV complications by getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and influenza if eligible, because being infected with more than one virus can increase the risk of severe disease. While very young infants cannot get vaccinated, those around them can.
SFDPH encourages people to prepare for the holidays in the following ways:
- Get the COVID-19 bivalent booster, now available for those aged five years and older if it has been at least two months since their last dose
- Get the influenza vaccine, available for those aged 6 months and older
- Get connected to a healthcare provider in case you get sick
- Know in advance if you are someone who would benefit from treatment with a medicine for COVID-19, as these medicines must be started early
- Stock up on COVID-19 rapid test kits. Those with insurance are able to get at-home tests for free or be reimbursed
- Keep a well-fitted mask on hand for crowded, indoor spaces (N95 or KN95 are best)
- Wash hands frequently
- Avoid contact with those at highest risk of getting sick, such as infants, if you have cold symptoms
- Make a backup plan for travel, caregiving, and other responsibilities
- Importantly, stay home when sick
Health care providers are the first place to go for health care needs related to COVID-19 and the flu. For those without health insurance or who face barriers in accessing care, SFDPH provides support, including vaccinations, through a network of SFDPH-affiliated sites. This includes several “test to treat” sites where people can be tested for COVID-19 and, if positive, receive antiviral treatment in the same visit if they meet the medical eligibility.
For more information about the COVID-19 bivalent booster, go to: sf.gov/get-your-covid-19-booster
For more information on how to access SFDPH-affiliated health sites if you are uninsured or face barriers to care, go to: sf.gov/information/public-healthcare-sites-san-francisco
For more information about flu vaccines, go to: sf.gov/flu-vaccines
For more information about RSV prevention, go to: www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/prevention.html