One shot could save your life when it comes to the flu, says a Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) doctor.
“For healthy people, having the flu means a few days of feeling miserable, but for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, it can lead to a severe illness involving a hospital stay, or even death,” says VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar. “The flu shot is the best way to not only protect yourself, but also the higher-risk people around you.”
For Ann Mackie, a retired family therapist, the reason she gets her flu shot every year is… all of the above. From her weekly bridge game friends, to her four young grandkids, she wants to protect everyone.
“I get the flu shot every year because as a 76-year-old, I believe it might save my life,” says Ann. “And it’s really important to me that I don’t bring the flu to those close to me. I understand that this could be a particularly nasty flu bug this year.”
Every year across Canada approximately 3,500 people die from complications due to the flu and pneumonia, and the majority are seniors.
Currently influenza activity is at expected levels across BC for this time of year, and is mostly the A(H3N2) flu strain. While we had a severe flu season last year, it’s too early to predict how severe this winter’s flu season will be.
Flu shots are recommended for everyone. They are free in BC for pregnant women, all children from six months to five years of age, people 65 years and older, Aboriginal people, and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. The vaccine is also free for anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu.
Children aged two to 17 years of age will have two options – the standard vaccine by needle (flu shot) or FluMist, the nasal spray vaccine. Both vaccines are effective and parents and caregivers can choose which vaccine to offer their child.
To protect patients in health care facilities, all BC health authorities require that doctors, staff, students and volunteers get immunized or wear a mask during the flu season. People planning to visit loved ones in a health care facility or who will take family members to appointments are also eligible for a free flu shot. To further protect patients, unvaccinated visitors to VCH facilities are asked to wear a mask, beginning Dec. 1. Masks will be available at nursing stations and/or outpatient reception desks.
Flu vaccinations are available at special VCH flu clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics and the VCH Travel Clinic. Flu clinics throughout the region have already begun; more information can be found on the VCH website at www.vch.ca/flu. Information on other flu clinics in the community can be found at ImmunizeBC.ca.