Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is ramping up its annual vaccination drive, recommending flu shots to everyone — not just people that are at high risk of getting seriously ill as a result.
In B.C., flu shots are free for all children from six months to five years old, people 65 and older, pregnant women, aboriginal people, people with chronic health conditions and people with compromised immune systems. People that visit loved ones in health care facilities or make regular visits with that person to a health care facility can also get a free shot, and the vaccine is also recommended for people who live or work with someone who is at risk.
This is the second year that all doctors, medical staff, medical students and volunteers to wear a mask while at work during flu season, and they’re also asking people visiting VCH facilities to do the same. Masks will be available at nursing stations and reception desks.
“Influenza is highly contagious and can cause serious complications for the very young, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions,” said Dr. Paul Martiquet, medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.
Also back this year is the new nasal flu spray vaccine, which was offered for the first time last season to children with an aversion to needles.
“We’re finding that it’s popular with kids, mostly aged two-to-five,” said Martiquet. “We just want to increase the coverage of the kids that as susceptible to flu, but don’t take very well to needles. It basically gives them the vaccine up the nose.”
The Canadian Centre for Disease Control suggests which strains of flu vaccine to include in the vaccination shot based on what happened in the southern hemisphere during their flu season. The current shot covers three common types of flu in what was a “moderate flu season down under.”
Emergency room doctors are also on the lookout for MERS — short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — a corona virus similar to SARS that has killed about 50 people since it was detected in the Saudi Arabian peninsula. It hasn’t been reported in B.C. yet, but VCH is watching closely — especially Whistler, which has a large number of tourists passing through that may have been exposed.
“We’ve informed all our emergency room docs in the Whistler area to be aware of any traveller who comes in with severe respiratory syndrome,” said Martiquet.
The flu vaccine is available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies, as well as scheduled flu clinics.
On Nov. 5, a senior’s only drop-in clinic will be set up a Whistler Community Services Society in Spring Creek, offering free immunizations from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A drop-in clinic for the general public is on Nov. 6 at the Whistler Health Care Centre from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., and there will be an appointment-only clinic on Nov. 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Pemberton Clinic will be offering an appointment-only clinic from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Nov. 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. There is also a senior’s only clinic at the Pemberton Lion’s Senior Villa from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 29.