The signs of winter may have already appeared, but Dr. Simon Kapaj worries many will ignore what is to come until it’s too late.
“Every year, we see people wait until they hear about or see others in the community start to get ill before taking the time to get immunized for influenza,” says Saskatoon Health Region’s deputy medical health officer. “But what they don’t realize is that they have likely already been exposed at that point and a flu shot will likely not do what it is supposed to do to keep them or their loved ones from falling ill. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body’s immune response to fully respond and for you to be protected, so you should be getting vaccinated now.”
Today, Saskatoon Health Region launched its public and employee influenza immunization clinics. The public (including anyone six months and older) can get a free influenza immunization at any one of the clinics that the Region offers, including a mass clinic at Prairieland Park on Sunday, November 6 and Monday, November 7.
Health Region officials are encouraging everyone six months and older to get their immunizations now even though vaccination continues throughout the influenza season. The timing, severity and length of the season vary each year, as well as what is expected to be the circulating influenza virus.
“There is a lot of analysis and planning that goes into the best time to offer immunizations in order to ensure maximum coverage and protection. Annual immunization is necessary to deliver maximum protection through the entire influenza season,” he says. “But we can only be effective in protecting our families, friends and coworkers, and minimizing the spread of illness, if people make immunization a priority now and not later.”
As announced earlier this month by the Ministry of Health, FluMist (nasal spray vaccine) will not be available in Saskatchewan this year.
Saskatchewan pharmacists are also able to give free influenza immunizations to people nine years of age and older. This year, about 85 pharmacies throughout Saskatoon Health Region are offering immunizations. 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.
“We see flu-related hospitalization and deaths every flu season. Vaccine is the safest and single most effective way to protect yourself and your family. There are a large number of options and venues for you to access the vaccine,” says Kapaj.
For additional information on the flu and the Region’s influenza clinics, visit www.4flu.ca.
Did you know, in Saskatoon Health Region, approximately one in five people with laboratory confirmed influenza are hospitalized? For more statistics and information, read this backgrounder.