There’s no “too soon” or “too late” to get a flu vaccine, the important point is that you get one.
“It’s best to get your flu shot as soon as it’s available,” advises Medical Health Officer, Dr. Rakel Kling. “In Canada, it tends to be released just in time for people to get it and start mounting a response to be fully protected once flu season starts,” she emphasized.
“But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a flu shot at anytime during the season.”
Dr. Kling says flu season often hits hardest in December when students are out of school for Christmas break, so late fall is a good time to start building immunity through the vaccination.
“It takes about 10 days to two weeks after your immunization to be full protected,” Kling said. “Influenza tends to start in the late fall and winter, so usually around mid-to-end October, and it can last for a various amount of time,” she added.
“However, influenza tends to peak roughly in the mid-to-late December time period when kids are out of school and there’s more mixing between people and households around the holidays, and that can pass the flu a bit more quickly.”
Influenza viruses are not to be confused with a rhinovirus (common cold) or stomach bugs – influenza pathogens are much more virulent and can lead to serious complications and hospitalization.
“Influenza, which people often call the flu, is sometimes confused with the common cold, the stomach flu (norovirus) or other illnesses caused by a virus,” said Dr. Kling.
“However, influenza is different – it is a serious infection of the airways that can be quite severe. It is highly contagious, and is among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.”
Influenza spreads when a person comes into contact with droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can include fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, or cough.
“The best ways to help protect yourself and those around you from influenza are to get immunized, wash your hands frequently, and to cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue,” advised Dr. Kling.
“If you are sick, stay home, and keep sick children away from daycares and schools.”
Every year in Canada, about 12,200 people are hospitalized and 3,500 people die from influenza or its complications.
Interior Health advises that the flu shot is a safe and effective way to help protect the public, especially children, pregnant women, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses or others most at risk from influenza and related complications.
The flu shot is free for those at risk of influenza complications as well as anyone in contact with people at risk.
Those eligible include: all children six to 59 months of age; pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy during the influenza season and their household contacts; 65 years and older and their caregivers/household contacts; visitors to hospitals, health centres and residential care facilities; children and adults who are morbidly obese.
Downtown Trail pharmacies are now offering flu shots: Drop ins are welcome at Pharmasave Trail during regular business hours, however Tuesday through Thursday are optimal days; People’s Drug Mart is offering flu vaccines Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.; Shoppers Drug Mart is booking appointments; and Safeway Pharmacy is also booking appointments.
Clients are reminded to bring their Care Card and there is a short form to fill in and sign.
Interior Health is holding public drop in clinics at Kiro Wellness Centre next month. For more information on those November dates and times, call the centre at 250.364.6219 or find a local flu clinic by visiting the Influenza Clinic Locator on the ImmunizeBC website at immunizebc.ca.
Interior Health reminds the public that during the influenza season, visitors who have not had a flu shot are required to wear a mask when visiting Interior Health hospitals, health centres and residential care facilities, including contracted facilities.
Based on global trends identified by the World Health Organization, the flu shot provides protection from the influenza virus strains expected to be circulating this season.
This year’s flu shot offers protection against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2 virus) and one influenza B virus. For those under 18, the preferred vaccine also protects against an additional B influenza virus.