Protecting yourself and others from the flu can be as easy as a quick roll of the sleeve and a poke in the arm.
Health Minister Terry Lake and provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall did just that today to announce that the influenza vaccine is now available throughout the province.
“Every year I get my flu shot not only to protect myself but to protect anyone around me who might be vulnerable to flu complications,” said Lake. “For pregnant women, seniors and residents of long-term care facilities, influenza could cause serious illness requiring hospitalization. It’s worth it to take a bit of time out of the day to get immunized and help protect those who need it most.”
The flu shot is available throughout the province at public health clinics, physicians’ offices, travel clinics and pharmacies. It is free in B.C. for children between six months and five years, seniors 65 and older, pregnant women, Aboriginal people, and individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. As well, the nasal spray flu vaccine is provided free at public health clinics and physicians’ offices to children 2 to 17 years of age who are at risk of serious illness from influenza or who live with someone who is at risk.
“Influenza can be a serious disease,” said Dr. Kendall. “In fact, the flu causes by far the most deaths among vaccine-preventable diseases, outpacing all others combined. Infected individuals are highly contagious and can spread the virus for 24 hours before they even realize they’re sick, so the best advice is to get your shot early and wash your hands frequently.”
Each year, there are approximately 3,500 deaths from influenza and its complications across Canada. 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 Dec. 1, 2015, or wear a mask when in a patient care area. The vaccine is offered free for these groups as well.
“The annual flu vaccine is still the best tool we have to protect against getting the flu. And combined with regular hand washing, you are also protecting those around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu complications,” says Dr Charles Webb, president of Doctors of BC. “Given that doctors provide care to patients already in compromised health situations, I strongly encourage all doctors in the province to take the lead and get themselves vaccinated too.”
“Because of their accessibility and convenience, community pharmacists are a key health-care provider for patient immunizations,” says Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. “There are more than 3,400 pharmacists in B.C. authorized to give immunizations and during last year’s flu season, pharmacists gave more than 430,000 flu shots to people in this province.”
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
To learn more about influenza, visit: www.immunizebc.ca/diseases-vaccinations/influenza
If you are a health care provider looking for immunization information, please visit the Health Professionals section of the BCCDC website. There you can find clinical resources, immunization courses, print resources for patients and more.
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