Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer, immunizes Victoria Schmid, Island Health���s vice-president of pandemic planning. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer, immunizes Victoria Schmid, Island Health���s vice-president of pandemic planning. (Submitted photo)

Can’t wait for a COVID vaccine? Get the flu vaccine in the meantime, says Dr. Enns

“We’re in a pandemic, and we can’t afford to have dual viral infections.”

Dr. Charmaine Enns, medical health officer for the North Island, Strathcona and the Comox Valley is imploring people to get the flu vaccine.

“We all have enough to deal with already. We really don’t want to have to deal with flu outbreaks on top of the pandemic,” she said.

Even if the hand sanitizing, mask wearing and physical distancing reduce the risk of contracting influenza, it doesn’t make sense not to get immunized.

“With all those public health measure, we keep saying we’re buying time for a vaccine. Well, we have one for the flu,” Dr. Enns said.

“What we do know is that it’s flu season. What we do know is that we have a vaccine. What we do know is that we’re in a pandemic and we can’t afford to have dual viral infections.”

Influenza is not as deadly as COVID, but it is a serious disease, especially for elderly people or those with underlying health conditions.

“The vaccine is the most important intervention we have for the flu. For COVID, all we have are our public health measures.”

So far, North Islanders seem to be listening — there has been higher than normal demand for the vaccine, which is not unexpected. For the first time in years, public health nurses have hosted vaccination clinics, whereas in normal years the family doctors and pharmacists have been able to handle the demand.

Dr. Enns advises people to check with their normal vaccine provider first. The vaccine is being distributed in allotments to make sure everyone on the North Island gets equitable access – if a doctor or pharmacy has run out, don’t worry, they will get more.

On top of that, it’s hard not to qualify for the free vaccine in B.C. Anyone at risk for complications qualifies— that’s about 30-35 per cent, Dr. Enns said — and anyone who’s in contact with someone at risk for complications.

To get vaccinated on the North Island, check with your pharmacist or family doctor, or visit https://www.islandhealth.ca/learn-about-health/the-flu-influenza to find a local provider.

RELATED: B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

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