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This story was updated at 12:26 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, with more information.

The Hamilton County Health Department will begin offering free flu vaccines for a limited time starting next week, according to a news release from the department.

The department is encouraging everyone to get a flu shot this year and to get it early in preparation for a more challenging flu season due to the added risk of COVID-19.

Due to limited flu vaccine supplies, only Hamilton County residents 18 years and older can use a drive-through flu vaccine clinic from 1:30-5 p.m. on Oct. 12-14 at the Alstom Plant located at 1125 Riverfront Pkwy. This is the same location as COVID-19 testing is taking place, but the flu vaccine clinic will be held at different hours. Free COVID-19 testing will continue to be offered at the site seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m, the release states.

When more vaccine supplies arrive, the Health Department will open the service to non-Hamilton County residents.

(READ MORE: You should always get a flu shot, but especially now)

The vaccine will be free while supplies last and no appointment is needed. More flu vaccine clinics will open as more supplies become available.

"The flu vaccine is especially important right now," Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes said in the release. "The same tools we've been using to prevent the spread of COVID-19—wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing—will also help prevent the spread of the influenza virus."

When arriving at the clinic, all people should wear a face mask while in their vehicle before receiving the vaccine, except children under two years.

Free flu vaccines are also offered for children 6 months to 17 years old - both Hamilton County residents and non-County residents - by appointment only at Sequoyah Health Center located at 9527 W Ridge Trail Rd. in Soddy-Daisy and at the Pediatric Clinic located at 921 E. 3rd St. in Chattanooga. Vaccines are also currently available through doctors' offices and retail pharmacies.

To make an appointment at the Sequoyah Health Center (an outdoor drive-through clinic), call 423-209-5490. To make an appointment at the 3rd Street Health Department (indoor clinic), call 423-209-8050. At the 3rd Street location, all persons except children under two years old should wear a mask and only one parent may enter the building with their child or children. Parking is available in the parking garage across from the Erlanger Emergency Room and visitors are asked to bring their parking ticket in for free validation.

The vaccine is recommended for all people six months and older who do not have contraindications. Those at highest risk for serious complications from the flu include children under 5 years, adults 65 years and over, pregnant women, and those with preexisting medical conditions or a compromised immune system, according to the release.

For more information about the flu and COVID-19, people can call the department's hotline at 423-209-8383 or visit the testing calendar at http://health.hamiltontn.org/AllServices/Coronavirus(COVID-19)/HealthDepartmentAffiliatedFREETestingSitesinHamiltonCounty.aspx.

People can also receive an email notification when eligibility requirements change by subscribing to the Health Department's English newsletter at https://bit.ly/3ivpfX and the Spanish newsletter at https://bit.ly/36NXKpN.

Compiled by Kim Sebring

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