Public health nurse Lisa Halliwell gives a flu shot to Danielle Wonderham while her two-year-old son Evan patiently waits his turn at Thursday’s clinic at Saanich Commonwealth Place. (Dan Ebenal/News Staff)

Island entering the peak of flu season

Island Health says flu shots the best prevention against the virus

Tis the season for coughs and sniffles. That’s why Island Health is urging residents to roll up their sleeves and get their flu shots.

“We know that influenza is responsible for many illnesses every season, and can lead to complications of hospitalizations or even death. That’s why we have a public immunization program every season,” said Dee Hoyano, medical health officer with Island Health.

Recent statistics suggest the flu is responsible for 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year in Canada.

Hoyano said it’s especially important for seniors, children under five, pregnant woman and those with serious health conditions to be immunized against influenza.

“The groups that are the most at risk are the ones who may suffer the most serious effects of flu – pneumonia is one of the most common things, but it can also make other conditions worse, like heart conditions,” she said. “There’s quite a long list of conditions – not necessarily things that people would think of as serious health conditions, like asthma for instance. An influenza infection can make them very sick.”

And the worst is still ahead, as Hoyano says peak flu season generally hits toward the end of the year and into early January.

“Right now we’re at levels we expected. We’re not seeing signs that we’re having a lot of early activity, but we definitely expect the amount of flu circulating to go up over the next month. “

Hoyano said close to 250,000 doses of vaccine have been sent out this year by Island Health, which serves a population of about 765,000, but she doesn’t know how many of those doses have been distributed in vaccines.

And even those who have received the vaccine aren’t necessarily protected against the most prevalent strains.

“I wouldn’t call it a shot in the dark. There’s a lot of consideration given to what strains are predicted to be the most likely to be around,” said Hoyano, adding the vaccine must be produced before it is known what strains will be the most common.

While it is still too early to say which strain will be most prevalent this year, Hoyano says the Influenza B strain that is being seen frequently here on the Island is covered in the four-strain vaccination given primarily to children but not the three-strain dose most adults receive.

“It’s too early in the season to say [what the vaccine effectiveness will be]. Last year it was in the range of 30 to 40 per cent reduction in risk,” said Hoyano, adding that the flu shot is just one way to prevent illness.

She also recommends washing your hands frequently, staying home from work when you’re sick and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Hoyano discounts concerns from some (including a recent letter to the editor writer) that the flu shot can be harmful.

“It’s a very safe vaccine. On average, it reduces your risk of illness between 40 and 60 per cent,” she said. “It’s not going to eliminate influenza in our community, but it certainly helps reduce that risk of you getting sick and also passing it on to somebody who might be vulnerable.”

One of the concerns expressed by those opposed to the vaccine is that in contains harmful ingredients, including aluminum.

“I’m not aware of aluminum being in the flu vaccines we’re using this year on the Island,” said Hoyano. “There is sometimes an adjuvant [included in the vaccine] that helps boost the immune response. We’re not using that type of vaccine this year on Vancouver Island.”

She said the goal for the influenza vaccine is different than for childhood immunizations for things like measles and polio, and the fact the influenza virus is constantly changing makes it far more difficult to target.

While it may not be perfect, Hoyano says the flu vaccine is the best method available to protect yourself and those around you from the flu.

“You need to think about your own situation and your own health status for making that decision about getting vaccinated, but also think about people around you who may not be as healthy or may not be able to deal with flu,” she said.

To find a public health flu clinic near you, visit islandfluclinics.ca. For other flu clinics in the area, visit immunizebc.ca and then go to find a clinic.

editor@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rare white orca spotted hunting off shores of Alaska for first time

Tl’uk seems healthy and strong, says researcher

Mental health challenges add to youth stress load

Part 2 in a Black Press series on Youth Homelessness

Langford bike park rolling along to completion

New park a tribute to Jordie Lunn’s legacy

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Sooke Bluffs staircase closed due to rot

District to consider replacement for ‘high risk’ staircase in fall

VIDEO: Greater Victoria police officers try bhangra dancing with social media star

Gurdeep Pandher leads bhangra lesson on front lawn of the BC Legislature building

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read