Ready and waiting
The San Mateo County Health Department delivered 200 doses of seasonal flu vaccine to the Half Moon Bay Library on Saturday for a free flu shot clinic. The red cooler held doses that protect against four strains of the virus. Clay Lambert / Review

There were two lines queueing up at the Half Moon Bay Library on Saturday afternoon. One was becoming all too familiar: people seeking free food that was being distributed through area relief organizations. The other was more seasonal. It was the first flu shot clinic of the season provided by a partnership involving the San Mateo County Health Department and Stanford medical students.

About 200 people got the free flu shot after winding through the library’s back garden to tables set up in the outside courtyard. About a dozen members of the Stanford Flu Crew — first-year medical students — were waiting in personal protective equipment ready to give the vaccinations.

Experts say the shots are particularly important this year.

Public health officials worry that flu season could exacerbate an already devastating coronavirus toll. They are concerned that people who contract both viruses simultaneously will have even worse outcomes than getting either separately. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also concerned that flu patients will further stretch limited resources needed for those contracting coronavirus.

On average, about 8 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. Doctors recommend most adults get a flu shot every year. They generally become more important as people age. A 2017 study found the flu vaccination reduced death, the need for intensive care and length of hospital stays. A subsequent study reported that a vaccinated adult who contracted the flu was 59 percent less likely to be admitted into the ICU.

The vaccines provided on Saturday were quadrivalent and protect against four strains of virus.

Half Moon Bay resident Aga Zielineska was in line along with her family. She didn’t need an expert to explain the dangers. She is a microbiologist.

“It is very important becaue of the coronavirus and the possible overlap,” she said. “We are extremely safe.”

Such events also serve as training opportunities for Stanford medical students.

Jude Alawa was among about a dozen students giving the vaccinations.

“I think it’s very important that we get this clinical experience,” he said.

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