EACH year, influenza kills more Canadians than all other vaccine-preventable illnesses combined. Health Minister Terry Lake and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall this week urged all British Columbians to arm themselves against influenza, and get vaccinated.
“Most of us recognize the importance of washing our hands, properly covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze, and staying home when sick to help prevent illness,” said Lake. “Those are all very important pieces of the infection-control puzzle. However, the single most effective way to reduce the spread of influenza is getting vaccinated. That is why I am happy to be getting my flu shot today.”
Clinics now are open throughout the province, and British Columbians can get immunized at a wide variety of locations – from dedicated flu clinics, to doctors’ offices or local pharmacies.
“I can’t stress the importance of all British Columbians receiving their annual flu vaccine,” said Dr. William Cunningham, past-president of Doctors of BC. “And this includes the health professionals who take care of them. Protecting yourself also protects the people around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness.”
“Pharmacists have been a key part of the fight against influenza for many years, as a front-line source of information and advice,” said BC Pharmacy Association President David Pavan. “Today, more than 3,100 pharmacists are specially trained to vaccinate British Columbians. Also, 92% of pharmacies throughout the province conveniently have at least one pharmacist authorized to administer injections.”
Flu shots are free in B.C. for all children between six months and five years of age, seniors 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, Aboriginal people, and individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. Individuals who work or live with people who have a higher risk of complications from the flu are also eligible for a free flu shot.
“Last year, the BC Centre for Disease Control distributed the highest rate of seasonal influenza vaccine on record for the province,” said Dr. Kendall. “That means more British Columbians were protected against serious illness than ever before. I hope that this year even more choose to protect themselves against flu, and get vaccinated.”
This year, B.C. will also be offering a live attenuated influenza vaccine (Flu Mist), given as an intranasal spray. Flu Mist will be offered to children and adolescents from two to 17 years of age. It is the preferred vaccine for children because it provides better protection than the inactivated influenza vaccine, or flu shot, given by injection.
In addition, for the second year in a row, anyone planning to visit a loved one in a health-care facility or those who take family members to outpatient appointments will also be eligible for a free flu shot from a licensed practitioner, such as a pharmacist, doctor or nurse.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates about 3,500 Canadians die from influenza complications each year – more deaths than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
To find the nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or visit the Influenza Clinic Finder at: www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu