This post appeared in Fox 17 West Michigan. Read the story here.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spectrum Health is now offering curbside flu vaccines in a push to get more people vaccinated for influenza during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Flu symptoms have proven themselves to be identical to COVID-19 symptoms in many patients. In Grand Rapids, Spectrum Health is concerned patients who don’t get the flu vaccine will overwhelm the hospital during the pandemic, when many medical experts are expecting a rise in COVID cases in the winter months.

“Even though we don’t have a vaccine for COVID right now, we do have a vaccine that protects against the four strains of influenza that we think will be circulating this season,” said Mary Zimmerman, Immunization Program Specialist.

The hospital is hoping curbside vaccinations will increase immunization rates. Spectrum’s target goal is to have 60% of its patient population vaccinated for the flu.

Currently, nine different sites are offering curbside vaccines. By the end of August, that number will jump to more than 55 all across West Michigan. Locations will stretch as far north to Ludington and as far south as St. Joseph.

“The average time from the time the patient pulled in to the time they left was about 7 and a half minutes.”

If you would like to get your vaccine done curbside, call you primary care physician to make an appointment and request it while booking. If they don’t provide the service, they can point you to a nearby clinic that does.

They’re hoping more patients will opt for a vaccine with the ease of the new option, in turn allowing them to reserve more beds for in-patient COVID cases.

“We’re really trying hard to decrease the burdens on the hospital systems, so we are going to do all we can to make it easier for those patients.”