Take a shot at protecting yourself and others from the flu

All British Columbians are encouraged to get immunized and reduce the chance of getting the flu and passing it on to others.

Health Minister Terry Lake and provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall rolled up their sleeves for the flu shot today and announced that the influenza vaccine will be available throughout the province by early November at public health clinics, physicians’ offices, travel clinics and pharmacies.

“It doesn’t take long to stop and get your flu shot,” said Lake. “By getting immunized, you’re not only protecting yourself, but also anyone who may be vulnerable to complications from the flu, which can cause serious illness, and even hospitalization. I get the flu shot every year to protect myself, my family and everyone around me.”

The flu shot is free in B.C. to people at risk from complications, and their close contacts:

  • children between six months and five years;
  • seniors 65 and older;
  • pregnant women;
  • Aboriginal people;
  • individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems;
  • anyone who lives with any of these people; and
  • visitors to long-term care facilities and hospitals.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine is provided free at public health clinics and physicians’ offices to children from two to 17 years of age who are at risk of serious illness from influenza or who live with someone who is at risk.

“Influenza causes more deaths than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined,” said Kendall. “The flu can be a serious disease and is highly contagious. Getting your flu shot early and washing your hands frequently, you can to protect yourself and others and prevent spreading the flu.”

“As someone battling cancer and as the mother of an immunocompromised child, I can personally attest to the importance of doing everything you can to protect your family,” said Victoria breast cancer patient Jacqueline Zweng. “That’s why the flu shot is so important. Getting sick might seem like an inconvenience to some people, but to others it can be life or death.”

Each year, about 3,500 Canadians die from influenza and its complications across Canada. Hospitalized patients and seniors in residential care are more vulnerable to influenza than healthy adults.

To help protect them, all health authority employees, students, physicians, residents, contractors, vendors, volunteers and visitors to health-care facilities must get immunized by Dec. 1, or wear a mask when in a patient care area. The vaccine is offered free for these groups as well.

“The annual flu vaccine is the single-most effective way to reduce the spread of influenza,” said Dr. Alan Ruddiman, president of Doctors of BC. “By protecting yourself, you also protect the people around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness – the young, the elderly, and physicians themselves who care for patients already in compromised health situations. I strongly encourage all British Columbians to receive their annual flu shot.”

“Pharmacists are a convenient and accessible option for getting your flu shot this year,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. “More than 95 per cent of pharmacies in communities across B.C. have pharmacists who are trained and authorized to give immunizations.”

To find the nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or visit the Influenza Clinic Finder: http://www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu#8/49.246/-123.116