With flu season just around the corner, it’s time for Canadians to roll up their sleeves for an annual influenza shot.
Local pharmacies will soon be stocked with this year’s vaccine which offers protection against two influenza A viruses (H1N1) and one influenza B virus, known as H3N2.
Another immunization option is flu shot clinics, with one slated for the Trail Memorial Centre on Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. or the Kiro Wellness Centre, Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m and Nov. 30, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The good news, says Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, is there’s a fairly good match between the vaccine component and the observed viral outbreaks seen within B.C. this season.
“So we expect the effectiveness of the vaccine to be higher this year than it was last year,” added Dr. Golmohammadi, Medical Health Officer for Interior Health.
The challenge with the influenza virus is that it changes over time, so each year, international professionals from the World Health Organization can only predict which bug to include in the annual vaccine.
Whether it’s hit or miss this season, sometime down the line, the flu shot can still make a difference between a few sick days at home versus a respiratory infection that requires longer recovery.
“The way the vaccine works is by generating a brisk immune response in the body,” explained Dr. Golmohammadi. “And immune system memory keeps that in mind so if the same virus comes up again, then our immune system is already aware of that, prepared for it, and quickly fights it off.”
The flu shot is free for those at risk of complications from influenza and those in contact with people at risk.
“The message is to make sure to immunize, protect yourself and protect your loved ones,” said Dr. Golmohammadi. “And those people who are vulnerable to influenza disease and may die from this absolutely preventable disease.”
Many people incorrectly use the term “flu” to refer to any illness cause by a virus, such as the stomach flu or the common cold.
Influenza is more severe and reduces the body’s ability to fight illnesses and infections, and it can increase a person’s risk for developing serious conditions like viral or bacterial pneumonia, he emphasized.
“Getting a flu shot and washing your hands are the two most effective ways to protect yourself and others from influenza and its complications.”
For more information or to check out the Influenza Clinic Locator, visit the ImmunizeBC website at immunizebc.ca.