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Flu vaccines: protecting yourself & community

This year's flu shot in BC includes protection against new strains of H1N1 and H3N2.

Friday October 29, 2021 | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends

There’s a simple way to ensure influenza (the flu) is not part of your fall and winter, and that’s to get immunized against influenza, says Island Health.

It should be noted that any vaccine is not 100% effective, as Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry has said many times. But it still may be worth a shot.

Flu shots in the past have had effectiveness as low as 27% effectiveness, depending on the year, the strain of the currently circulating viruses, and the accuracy of pre-guessing where the viral mutations will be at by the time vaccine product is produced, shipped and available.

Nonetheless, given that the COVID-19 virus is also presenting health challenges this year, Island Health advises that everyone 6 months of age and older should be immunized against influenza.

Health protocols also work. Last year when everyone was physically and socially distancing staying home during the first full winter season of COVID, and washing their hands regularly, there were almost no flu infections in BC.

vaccine, injection
This year’s flu shot in BC includes protection against new strains of H1N1 and H3N2.

Vaccines provide protection:

“Getting immunized is the best way to keep us, our loved ones, our close contacts and our communities healthy. We encourage everyone to do their part to protect people against influenza, which can have tragic outcomes at all ages,” says Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer.

“We also need to protect those most at risk – including the very young who can’t be immunized (under 6 months of age) – and those with weakened immune systems,” Dr Stanwick said in a news release.

Some flus — like the H1N1 strain — can cause serious illness, and getting protection by vaccination is likely helpful.

What’s in the 2021-2022 vaccine:

The seasonal flu vaccine changes each year, this year the 2021-2022 vaccine includes the following strains:

  • A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (new strain this year)
  • A/Cambodia/e0826360/2020 (H3N2)-like virus (new strain this year)
  • B/Washington/02/2019-like virus 
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus 

Free vaccines this year:

This year, influenza vaccination is free for everyone in B.C. age six months and older. Those at increased risk from severe influenza and serious influenza-related complications include:

  • people aged 65 years and older,
  • children less than 5 years old,
  • Indigenous people, and
  • people with chronic health conditions.

Not the same as COVID vaccine:

COVID-19 and influenza vaccines are very different vaccines. If you have had or are getting a COVID-19 vaccine you do not need to delay getting an influenza vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines can be safely given at the same time or any time before or after any other live or inactivated vaccine, including the influenza vaccine. 

It is safe to get immunized during the COVID-19 pandemic and safety protocols are in place at all locations where you can get your influenza shot.

Immunization is the best protection against influenza. In addition, continue to wash your hands frequently, stay home when sick, maintain a safe physical distance or wear a non-medical face covering to reduce respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

Help reduce load on ER:

Respiratory illnesses such as influenza and COVID-19 can also result in increased emergency room (ER) visits. Getting both the influenza and COVID-19 vaccines will not only help reduce the potential of attending the ER due to symptoms of respiratory illness, but will also help ensure Island Health’s dedicated ER physicians, nurses and clinical staff can continue to meet the care needs of patients experiencing emergencies.

Who is eligible:

  • Children age 6 months to 5 years, and their families, can get the influenza shot at a public health clinic. Visit islandfluclinics.ca to find an influenza clinic near you, and call your local public health unit to book appointments.
  • Other eligible individuals can get the influenza shot from their local pharmacist or physician. Visit immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu/or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for locations.

Physicians office & pharmacies:

Flu vaccines are durable at regular refrigerator temperatures.

  • Physicians can immunize all ages.
  • Anyone age 5+ can receive the influenza vaccine from a pharmacist·       
  • Children and youth ages 2-17 years can also receive FluMist® from their pharmacist. Call your provider to confirm availability.

At the appointment:

People are asked to wear a face mask during your flu shot appointment. A short-sleeved shirt is appropriate. Bring your BC Services Card (or other Government ID such as a driver’s licence).

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Check out the new Monk Office website.