Austin-area residents interested in getting a flu vaccination this season can now do so from the comfort of their cars.

Baylor Scott & White Health will host its first of two drive-thru flu shot clinic operations Sept. 17 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at BSW locations throughout the Austin metro region. The clinics are open to the public, and advance registration is not required for attendance. A second set of drive-thru clinics will be held Oct. 17 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

All attendees over age 2 are asked to wear masks while in their cars, and medical providers will administer the vaccine from their vehicles.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, flu shots are especially critical this year, said Dr. Bradley Berg, a practicing BSW pediatrics doctor in Round Rock. Berg said there are several flu vaccinations available this year that have been updated to match various strains of the respiratory illness.

"This season is a big, black box, and there are a lot of unknowns, as far as what the season's going to look like," Berg said.

With social distancing and face masks use still being maintained in public spaces, Berg said that these practices can help deter as pervasive a spread of the illness. Still, he recommended that everyone receive a flu shot.

Flu vaccinations, Berg said, prevent about 50% of flu transmissions. However, Berg said individuals who receive a flu shot and develop the respiratory illness are far less likely to have a severe case of the flu and are likely to have faster recovery times.

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 symptoms often mirror side effects of the flu, Berg said. Common symptoms for each include respiratory issues, body aches and chest tightness.

"They really do look almost identical," Berg said. "It's often really hard to tell, without actually getting tested, what you have, and that's another reason to keep getting the vaccine. It kind of knocks off one less variable."