SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Workers in health and congregate care facilities in Sonoma County will be required to get a flu shot by the end of November, officials announced on Wednesday.
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They said the move is aimed at staving off a fall twindemic – a dual outbreak of both COVID-19 and the flu.
Case rates are low now, but with relaxed health rules and holiday gatherings around the corner, Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said the risk of influenza and COVID spreading at the same time is high.
Sonoma County's health order will take effect Nov. 1 and apply to doctors, nurses, hospital techs, dental offices and other similar care facilities and clinics. The order is temporary and will remain in place through May 31, which is typically the end of flu season.
Those with a medical or religious exemption from the shot will be required to wear a surgical mask indoors.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar with the John's Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the move should cut down on those being hospitalized or missing work because of the flu.
"The higher the flu vaccination rate is, the better equipped any given area will be," he told KCBS Radio. "The more people the are vaccinated means the less people are going to require hospitalizations for flu, less people are going to have to take off work for flu."
However, he acknowledged that this kind of requirement is uncommon at a county level and he hopes the perception of a mandate doesn't blunt its effectiveness.
"I think when you have government involved in it, it does raise questions in many people's minds," Dr. Adaljia explained. "So this is much better done when private employers decide to do this because of their own analysis of the value of the vaccine."
"What we saw with COVID-19 is when governments get involved in this it actually raises more red flags and people become really oppose to it and I think rightfully so. I think this should be something that hospitals should elect to do on their own."
Though not required, Sonoma County first responders are also encouraged to get the flu vaccine.