Island Health urges Comox Valley residents to get their flu shots as public health clinics open their doors next week.
North Island Medical Health Officer Charmaine Enns says the influenza vaccine is the “most effective strategy” Island Health (formerly Vancouver Island Health Authority) has to prevent and reduce influenza each flu season.
“While influenza keeps otherwise healthy people in bed for a week, it is a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease for those who are elderly, very young or have underlying health conditions that put them at risk of complications from influenza,” says Enns, noting the vaccine not only protects those who receive it, but also the people they come into contact with.
“This is why it is important that both those who are at higher risk of influenza receive the vaccine and also those who live or care for those individuals.”
Enns adds predicting the severity of each year’s influenza season is difficult.
“We really only know once we look back,” she continues. “However, we have had a number of years of relatively lower activity so it would not be unreasonable to expect a busier influenza season this season.”
Public health clinics start the week of Oct. 28. There will be a drop-in clinic Monday, Oct. 28 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay, another Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hornby Community Hall and another Wednesday, Oct. 30 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Comox Community Centre.
For a complete list of public health clinic dates, times and locations, visit www.viha.ca/flu. The website also includes general information about influenza, including symptoms and prevention methods.
Free flu shots are provided to the following groups:
• People 65 and older and their caregivers;
• Children and adults with chronic health conditions, their household and close contacts;
• Health-care workers;
• Emergency responders;
• Healthy children from six months of age to less than five years old;
• Household contacts and caregivers of children from birth to less than five years old;
• Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy;
• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
• Owners and operators of poultry farms;
• Aboriginal peoples;
• People who are very obese (those with a body mass index of 40 or greater);
• Corrections officers and inmates in provincial correctional institutions;
• Those who provide care or service in potential outbreak settings housing high-risk persons (e.g. crew on ships).
Island Health asks those getting their shot to bring their CareCard or other government ID (valid driver’s licence) to the clinic, and wear a short-sleeved shirt. Eligible individuals may also get their free vaccine from their doctor or pharmacy.
Also, new this year, Island Health is offering a nasal spray influenza vaccine free for eligible children aged two to 17. According to an Island Health news release, it is the preferred vaccine for children two to eight years old because it provides better protection in young children than the inactivated influenza vaccine given by injection. It also offers the advantage of being needle-free.
Those not eligible for the free vaccine can be vaccinated by their family physician or pharmacist for a nominal cost, according to Island Health.
For more information about the vaccine, visit http://immunizebc.ca or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.