Vancouver, BC – With nearly 425,000 doses of the flu vaccine available in Vancouver Coastal Health this year, the health authority is encouraging members of the public to get their shot—especially babies, young children and seniors.
“BC’s extensive immunization program provides the vaccine free to many people,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Soon pharmacies, public health clinics and physicians’ offices across the Vancouver Region and the province will be ready to help arm British Columbians against the flu. Getting immunized is a safe way to protect not only yourself, but also those more vulnerable to the serious complications influenza can cause.”
Influenza is highly contagious and can cause serious complications for individuals with weakened immune systems. Every year across Canada, between 4,000 and 8,000 people die from complications due to the flu and pneumonia, and 90 per cent of those who die are seniors. This year’s flu shot for adults protects against three flu strains, the H1N1 and H3N2 strains, as well as a new B strain. New flu vaccines for children will also protect against a second B strain.
“For healthy people, falling sick with the flu means a few days of feeling miserable, but for young children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, it can lead to hospitalization and ICU admissions,” says VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar. “We’re encouraging everyone to get a flu shot so you’re not only protecting yourself, but also the high-risk people around you.”
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, 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.
“In Canada, influenza causes the most deaths among vaccine-preventable diseases, outpacing all others combined,” says Dr. Dawar. “You can spread the flu for up to 24 hours before you have any symptoms, so you can pass it on before you even know you’re sick. Getting the flu shot is the best way to prevent catching it or passing it on, and we’re encouraging the public to get their flu shot soon, as outbreaks have already been reported in nursing homes in VCH.”
To protect patients in health care facilities, all B.C. health authorities require that doctors, staff, students and volunteers get immunized or wear a mask while at work during the flu season. To further protect patients, VCH is also asking unvaccinated visitors to our facilities do the same, beginning December 1. 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 during flu season are also eligible for a free flu shot.
The influenza vaccine works by developing antibodies within two weeks of getting the shot. These antibodies protect against flu viruses circulating in the community. “Since the flu shot contains inactivated virus, it can’t make you sick. The most common side effect of the shot is a sore arm,” Dr. Dawar explains. “FluMist, which is a nasal spray flu vaccine, contains weakened flu virus and its most common side effect is a runny nose.”
Flu vaccinations are available at special public health flu clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics and at the VCH Travel Clinic
. Flu clinics throughout the VCH region have already begun; more information can be found on VCH’s Flu Shots & Clinics
page. Information on other flu clinics in the community can be located at ImmunizeBC.ca
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health