Saskatoon – Registered nurses Brittney Summers and Tanys Maier have seen firsthand how devastating influenza can be.
"I've seen people go to the intensive care unit because of the flu," says Summers, who works in the Emergency Department (ED) at Royal University Hospital (RUH).
"Last year, we gave a lady with breast cancer who had the flu seven litres of IV fluids before having to send her to the intensive care unit because her already weak immune system could not fight off the virus," explains Tanys Maier, who also works in the ED at RUH.
Seasonal influenza poses serious health risks to the elderly, young children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions, and their caregivers.
"These populations are not able to fight infection as well as the general public so they're the most susceptible and at risk," says Jason Shand, emergency services nurse clinician who works with Summers and Maier.
"As healthcare providers, we should be role models for the public and for each other at work," says Summers. Summers, Shand and Maier get vaccinated for influenza every year and give the vaccine to their co-workers as peer immunizers.
The public (including anyone six months and older) can get a free influenza immunization at one of the many clinics that the Region offers each year, beginning with a mass clinic at Prairieland Park. This year's mass clinic runs from October 20 to 24. Clinics throughout the Region continue until November 28.
Flu Mist (nasal spray vaccine) will be available to children aged two to 17. However, depending on delivery of this vaccine, it may not be available until towards the end of October.
This is the first year in Saskatchewan that pharmacists are also able to give the injectable influenza vaccine. Approximately 800 pharmacists in the province have been certified to give the vaccine to people nine years of age and older. However, those between the ages of six months and eight years must receive the vaccine at a public influenza clinic site, a physician's office or with a routine childhood vaccination appointment at their local public health office.
"Vaccination is the safest and single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza, especially for those at risk of complications, as there are flu-related hospitalizations and deaths every flu season," says Dr. Simon Kapaj, Deputy Medical Health Officer, Saskatoon Health Region. "The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is through immunization. I urge all people, especially vulnerable populations, to protect themselves by being immunized."
For additional information on the flu and the Region's influenza clinics, visit www.4flu.ca.
Note: From October 19 to November 27, clients of Child Health Clinics at selected sites throughout the Region will be offered immunization-focused appointments only. Clients are encouraged to visit their family doctor for routine well-baby care. For more information, visit www.4flu.ca or call HealthLine at 811.