A vial labeled with the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

As flu season begins to hit the San Diego region, county public health officials once again encouraged all residents to get vaccinated for influenza and COVID-19, preferably at the same time.

Respiratory illnesses historically increase during fall and winter as many people move activities and gatherings indoors. San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School has around half its students out sick with a respiratory illness as of Friday.

Additionally, data gathered by the county Health and Human Services Agency shows that those who are vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 are substantially less likely to die of complications from the illness.

“Vaccination remains the best way to prevent severe outcomes and death from COVID-19,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer. “We are especially encouraging those eligible to get the new bivalent booster, as it is specifically designed to protect individuals from the virus variants currently circulating in our community. These variants and their relatives are expected to be with us into the holidays.”

According to the county’s data, in the first seven months of this year, from Jan. 1 to July 31, 912 San Diegans died of COVID-19. Of those 912, 498 individuals did not complete the primary series of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

A total of 42 people had received only a single dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and the other 456 individuals had received no vaccine doses of any kind. Individuals considered not vaccinated represented 54% of total deaths.

Of the remaining deaths, 281 completed the primary series and 133 also had an additional booster dose. A total of 80.4% of the 3.3 million San Diegans six months of age or older have completed the primary series. Two shots of these vaccines are needed to complete the primary series and be considered fully vaccinated.

For the period between Aug. 14 and Sept. 10 of this year, the death rate for San Diegans who did not complete the primary vaccine series was 0.94 per 1 million residents. That death rate is five times higher than those who completed the primary series and received a booster — 0.18 per 1 million county residents.

A total of 1,473,096, or 59.8%, of 2,465,357 eligible San Diegans have received boosters for COVID. The county reported 1,855 new cases and nine deaths since the last report, increasing the cumulative totals to 926,364 infections and 5,507 deaths.

The cases reported in the past week were slightly lower compared to the 2,284 infections identified the previous week.

The number of those hospitalized with the illness decreased by one to 144 on Thursday night, while those in intensive care units — 20 — remained static. There are 238 ICU beds available in the county.

— City News Service