Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is encouraging people to arm themselves against this year’s flu season by getting vaccinated.
Each year, across Canada there are between 4,000 and 8,000 deaths from influenza and its complications. Influenza causes by far the most deaths among vaccine-preventable diseases, outpacing all others combined.
“Influenza is highly contagious and can cause serious complications for the very young, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions,” said Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Martiquet. “You can spread influenza for up to 24 hours before you have any symptoms, so you can pass the flu on to your family and friends before you even know you are sick. Getting the flu shot is the best way to prevent catching the flu or passing it on.”
Flu shots are recommended for everyone. They are free in B.C. for all children from six months to five years of age, people 65-years and older, pregnant women, Aboriginal people, people with chronic health conditions, and those with compromised immune systems. The vaccine is also important for anyone who lives or works with a person who is at higher risk of problems from the flu.
To protect patients in health care facilities, last year British Columbia’s health authorities adopted a policy requiring all doctors, staff, students and volunteers to get immunized or to wear a mask while at work during influenza season. To further protect patients, we’re also asking people visiting our facilities to do the same. Masks will be available at nursing stations and/or outpatient reception desks. People planning to visit loved ones in a health care facility or who will take family members to outpatient appointments are also eligible for a free flu shot.
During last year’s flu campaign VCH trialed FluMist, a nasal flu spray vaccine, as an alternative for children and youth. Feedback was positive, and this year the vaccine is available for eligible children and youth throughout B.C.
Flu vaccinations are available at special public health flu clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics and at the VCH Travel Clinic. To find a flu clinic in your area, or for more information about the vaccine, go to www.vch.ca/flu-clincs.