Protect yourself: vaccinate early to prevent the flu

John Horgan: Ouch! (Just kidding!)

BRITISH Columbians are encouraged to get their flu shot early to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu.

As of this week, the influenza vaccine is available throughout the province at public health clinics, pharmacies, and nurse practitioners’ and physicians’ offices.

“We often think of the flu as an inconvenience, but for many people, it can be far more serious,” said Premier John Horgan. “That’s why I rolled up my sleeve and got my flu shot this week. I’m proud to do my part in protecting myself and others from the flu.”

The flu shot is free for those British Columbians and their close contacts who are:

  • children between six months and five years old;
  • seniors 65 and older;
  • pregnant women;
  • Indigenous people;
  • individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems;
  • anyone who lives with any of these people; and
  • visitors to long-term care facilities and hospitals.

“Each year, thousands of people across Canada die from influenza or its complications,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “Seniors are most vulnerable and everyone should talk to a physician, nurse practitioner or other health-care professional about the influenza vaccine early in the flu season.”

Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Across Canada, thousands of people are hospitalized from influenza and about 3,500 Canadians die from the flu and its complications each year. In total, influenza causes more deaths than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

“The flu is a highly contagious disease from which people can take actions to protect themselves,” said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. “Getting your flu shot early and washing your hands frequently can help protect yourself, and others, from contracting and spreading the flu.”

The nasal spray flu vaccine is also publicly funded and available at public-health clinics and physicians’ offices for children two to 17 years old who are at risk of serious illness from influenza or who live with someone who is at risk.

“In addition to seniors, the flu is a serious illness that can be dangerous to many groups of people,” said Dr. Trina Larsen Soles, president of the Doctors of BC. “Getting the vaccine can help prevent flu-related health concerns before they happen and I join the government in urging all British Columbians to get the vaccine early.”

“Pharmacists throughout the province are trained and authorized to give vaccinations in almost every corner of B.C.,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the B.C. Pharmacy Association. “We provide a convenient and accessible option for getting the flu shot and encourage everyone to do their part to fight the spread of the flu.”

“Patients and their families may also conveniently receive their flu shot from many nurse practitioners,” said Fiona Hutchison, president of the B.C. Nurse Practitioner Association. “There are more than 400 nurse practitioners providing patient care throughout B.C., offering primary health-care services at clinics located in their communities throughout the province.”

Hospitalized patients and seniors in residential care are more vulnerable to influenza than healthy adults. To help protect them, all health authority employees, students, physicians, residents, contractors, vendors, volunteers and visitors to health-care facilities must get immunized by December 1 or wear a mask when in a patient care area. The vaccine is offered free for these groups as well.

To find the nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 811 or visit the Influenza Clinic Finder at: www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu

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