The first public health flu clinic of the season was held in Trail Monday, but without the usual door-crasher rush.
Only a handful of seniors lined up for the 9 a.m. opening of Interior Health’s flu vaccination clinic at Cominco Gym, which organizers says is likely a result of extensive private-sector participation this year.
“Normally, on the first day there is a line-up to the street,” said public health nurse Sarah Jones.
By 1 p.m., about 300 people had received shots and staff was expecting to treat 500-600 by the end of the day. This compares with the 1,000 or more that have attended on opening day in recent years.
All six pharmacies in Trail are offering flu shots his year, although those not eligible for the IHA clinics will have to pay about $20 for a privately-administered dose of vaccine. The pharmacies in Rossland and Fruitvale are not participating. Two of the six that have reported to IH so far indicate they have inject over 500 people.
Shoppers Drug Mart did not offer flu shots last year but is doing so this year after pharmacist Raj Patel received the necessary licences and training. Previously, pharmacies contracted with a nurse to administer the vaccine.
“More and more pharmacies will be offering this service,” Patel predicted.
Shoppers is running a flu clinic on Nov.16-20, but is also administering shots in the interim upon request. Appointments are required in either case.
Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the sniffles, fever, aches and pains that accompany the flu, according to Interior Health. The sooner you get your flu shot – the sooner you and those around you will be protected, says an agency news release.
“People can spread the influenza virus before they show any symptoms at all,” said Dr. Rob Parker, IH medical health officer.
“That’s why it is very important to wash your hands throughout the day – especially after sneezing, or coughing as well as before and after visiting daycares, hospitals or healthcare facilities. And if you are feeling sick stay home to avoid exposing others to the virus.”
Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, face-to-face contact and by touching surfaces such as door knobs and telephones that have been contaminated with the virus. Influenza is the leading cause of preventable death due to infectious disease in Canada, killing thousands of Canadians every year and hospitalizing thousands more. Seniors, infants under two and people with chronic illness are most at risk from complications that can result from the flu.
This year’s vaccine contains three different flu strains, one of which is the pandemic strain (H1N1) that circulated in 2009-2010.
“The flu shot is a safe, effective way to reduce your chances of getting influenza and if you do get the flu it will reduce the severity of your symptoms,” Parker said. “If you aren’t eligible for the free clinics, you can still get a flu shot. Check with your pharmacist or doctor to find out about getting vaccinated.”
The next free flu clinic in Trail is Nov. 7 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m). at the Cominco Gym.
There will also be clinics at the Rossland Miners Hall on Nov. 4 (9-4); Fruitvale Memorial Hall on Nov. 14 (11 – 5); and Salmo Wellness Centre on Nov. 15 (1-3); and Kiro Wellness Centre on Nov 23 (1-5 p.m.) and Nov. 30 (9 – noon).
Those eligible for shots at the free clinics include:
• people 65 years and older and their caregivers/household contacts
• children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts
• children and adolescents (6 months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods of time with acetylsalicylic acid and their household contacts
• very obese adults
• healthy children age 6-23 months
• household contacts and caregivers of infants under 24 months
• pregnant women who will be in their third trimester during influenza season and their household contacts (pregnant women who are in other high risk groups can be immunized at any time during the pregnancy)
• residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
• health-care and other care providers in facilities and community settings who are capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk of influenza complications.
• people who work with live poultry or pigs
Raymond Masleck is a retired Times reporter filling in the newsroom for the next month