Annual free flu clinics are returning to Orange Coast College for students, staff, faculty and the general public.

Starting Friday, and continuing on Nov. 22 and Dec. 6, the Orange County Health Care Agency is providing over 400 influenza vaccines that will be given in the Student Health Center. The vaccines will be given and administered on a first-come, first-served basis.

According to Janice Iglesias, a health educator at OCC, the flu shot initiative has been around since before she became involved with the health center in 2013.

“We target between October to the end of the semester to hold these group clinic dates, as they coincide with what’s predicted to be the flu season which usually occurs between October and May,” Iglesias said.

Low vaccination rates among most Americans have led to a national push from health officials, healthcare providers, and school districts to make vaccines more readily available. The CDC estimated that 42 percent of Americans got vaccinated last year.

Despite this, there was a spike in flu related deaths in Southern California in 2018. Even with a record number of flu cases in the 2017-2018 season, with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention labeling it the worst flu epidemic since the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak, the death spike during the season was still alarming.

Experts found the death toll with patients under 65 was much higher than in past years. The cause may have been an early-hitting flu season, however they say a more likely cause was the type of influenza, swine flu, which nine out of 10 flu victims tested positive for.

Swine flu tends to be much harsher for children and young adults, and can lead to abrupt and frightening symptoms that sometimes result in death.

Another notable statistic from the CDC is regarding the amount of unvaccinated patients who fell victim to influenza last flu season.

From a sample of 56 child deaths, an estimated 26 percent of them had gotten at least one dose of a flu vaccine. While that is low, it is actually higher than previous years, where an estimated 85 percent of all children who were killed by the flu were unvaccinated.

The health center gave out about 419 shots last year, and ordered around the same amount to prepare for this flu season.

“We’re hoping to give all of those out,” Iglesias says.

The shots will be available starting at 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

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