A message from Dr. Helena Swinkels, Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Marion Guenther, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Immunizations, CDPPH office of the Chief Nursing Officer
We often think of “the flu"—short for influenza—as being “no big deal," but every year in BC it causes serious illness, many hospitalizations, and even deaths. The good news is that there is a safe and effective vaccine that may prevent you from getting seriously ill with the flu and requiring hospital care. The flu vaccine is recommended every year, especially for those at high risk of serious illness, such as Elders, babies over six months of age, and people with chronic medical conditions. It is also recommended for healthy people who care for or visit those most at risk for complications from the flu.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more important to get immunized this year. Even though a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available, we do have a flu vaccine and, like other vaccines, is a powerful way to stay as healthy as possible. (See our previous message about adult immunization.)
Why you should get the flu shot
The symptoms of seasonal flu and COVID-19 are very similar, so getting the flu vaccine will reduce the chance that you will need to be tested and possibly quarantined for COVID-19. Simply put, by getting a flu shot, you will be decreasing your chances of respiratory illness. You will also be decreasing your worry, confusion, and the need for testing, isolation, and visits to your healthcare practitioner. And better yet, you will be decreasing the chance of having to leave your community for isolation and/or treatment during the pandemic.
What's more, by getting your flu shot, you can help protect not just yourself but also your loved ones and everyone in your community—especially those who can't be immunized or are at high risk of serious illness from the flu. Getting immunized greatly reduces the risk of getting and spreading the flu, especially when combined with those everyday measures that have now become a habit: washing our hands, keeping to our bubbles, staying two metres (six feet) apart, wearing a mask when we have to be close, and staying home when we are sick.
Even if you don't belong to the highest-risk groups, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get a yearly influenza vaccination, with rare exceptions.
So, please make sure you get your flu shot this year! If you've thought about it, but have not done so before, this is the year to do it!
About the flu shot
In BC, the flu shot is provided free to Indigenous people. Those who are not eligible for a free influenza vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies (pharmacists can immunize people five years of age and older with an injectable vaccine, and two years and older with nasal spray influenza vaccine).
The vaccine is usually given as one dose. Children under nine years of age who have never had a seasonal influenza vaccine need two doses. The second dose of vaccine is important to raise their level of protection and should be given four weeks after the first dose.
For more information about the flu shot, visit this link.