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St. Louis health systems offer free vaccines ahead of potentially severe flu season

Scott Antel of St. Louis gets an annual flu shot at a free BJC Healthcare clinic before the Blues Game at Enterprise Center on Thursday.
Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
Scott Antel of St. Louis gets his annual flu shot at a free BJC Healthcare clinic before the Blues game at Enterprise Center on Thursday.

Health officials are encouraging people in St. Louis to get their annual flu shot ahead of what could be a severe season. Several hospitals and health departments are offering free flu shot clinics through October, many with shots for free.

Early October is the prime time for people to get the flu vaccine, said Kristin Helton, a pharmacy manager at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. That's late enough to offer lasting immunity through spring but early enough to offer protection early in the season.

“We kind of consider that to be the sweet spot, because it will last you and give you protection through April, which is really the time frame of our flu season,” she said.

Health officials can sometimes predict how severe a flu season will be by looking at how many people have gotten sick in Australia and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, Helton said. Australia’s severe flu season could indicate the United States is in for a serious winter.

For many, immunity may have waned after years of COVID-19 precautions, Helton said.

“People weren’t getting infected, but they also weren’t building up immunity, which this year could lead to a higher rate of infection,” she said.

Helton said people can get the COVID-19 booster shot and flu vaccine at the same time, but she recommends getting one in each arm to keep soreness at bay.

Interest in flu vaccines has been lower this year, she said, most likely due to “vaccine fatigue” from being encouraged to get bothCOVID-19 vaccinations and boostersthroughout the past year.

Still, flu vaccines are the best way to prevent serious flu-related illness and keep it from spreading to more vulnerable people, Helton said.

Here’s where to get a flu shot this month in the St. Louis region:

BJC Healthcare will offer flu shots before the Blues game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The health system is also offering clinics on Saturday at Barnes-Jewish West County in Creve Coeur and on Sunday at Christian Hospital in north St. Louis County. Another clinic will be held Oct. 13 at Northwest HealthCare in Florissant.Appointments are required.

SSM Health is offering free drive-through clinics from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at St. Clare Hospital in Fenton, DePaul Hospital in St. Louis and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Every person 9 and older is eligible to receive a flu shot; the Cardinal-Glennon clinic will vaccinate those 6 months and older.

St. Charles County is offering a drive-in flu shot clinic from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at St. Charles Community College in Cottleville. The health departmentrecommends patients make appointments. This flu clinic will also offer a high-dose flu vaccine option for people 65 and older.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.