Some years, the influenza virus kills up to 8,000 Canadians, but it doesn’t have to.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority has this week begun rolling out free clinics for those at greatest risk of falling victim to the flu.
This year’s flu vaccine includes two new strains of the virus, as well as the infamous H1N1 strain, which has been in the vaccine since 2009, the year of the H1N1 pandemic.
Last year 160,000 people on Vancouver Island received the vaccine at public clinics, excluding health care workers.
VIHA anticipates the same amount of uptake this year, though more health-care workers are likely to get vaccinated following the province’s decision to require all such workers to either get the vaccine, or wear a face mask during flu season.
VIHA medical health officer Dr. Dee Hoyano said the requirement for health-care workers hasn’t been an issue thus far.
“From early reports people are showing up to get immunized,” Dr. Hoyano said. “We won’t know for a number of weeks what our overall coverage is going to look like.”
Free shots are offered to people at highest risk of complications from the flu, including those 65 years of age and over and their caregivers, children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts, health care workers and emergency responders.
Influenza is transmitted person-to-person, even before symptoms are apparent. Regular hand-washing and staying home when ill are two other ways of helping protect yourself against the virus.
VIHA recommends even healthy adults get immunized via family doctor, local pharmacy, walk-in clinic or travel clinic. Visit viha.ca/flu for more information and to see if you qualify for a free immunization shot.
Click here for a list of drop-in flu clinics in the Greater Victoria area.