Flu season is upon us, one way to fight the battle against the seasonal illness this winter is to get the influenza vaccine starting on Oct. 15.
“Influenza comes around every year and it’s a serious disease that can sometimes result in hospitalization, every year we have deaths from influenza,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Judy MacDonald.
Albertans are able to receive the influenza vaccination until the end of March 2019; however, MacDonald recommends that residents get vaccinated earlier rather than later.
The influenza vaccine is available through public health clinics, pharmacies, and physicians throughout the province.
“The program is for Albertans six months and up. Six months of age is the youngest age the influenza vaccine has been licensed for,” MacDonald said.
She added, “You cannot go to a pharmacist with a young child. Pharmacists can immunize children from five years of age and up.”
In previous years Pharmacists could immunize children nine years of age and up. Immunization of children five years and up could be done for special circumstances however, such as travel vaccines.
“What’s changed this year is Pharmacists are able to report the doses that they are giving children in a very timely way. That’s what we needed to have in place, because sometimes if children have never had an influenza vaccine they will need two doses a minimum of 28 days apart.
“We just needed to make sure that when they are administering those doses Pharmacists can report it so if that child shows up somewhere else to get a second vaccine dose they can see the record and know what to do,” MacDonald said.
Although around the same per cent of the population gets immunized each year, which is around 27 to 31 per cent, the best way to protect yourself and others against influenza is to get vaccinated, MacDonald added.
“When you choose to get the influenza vaccine you are also protecting other people around you that either don’t get immunized or if they have been immunized they don’t respond as well, maybe an elderly person or a child. Especially those who are two years of age or younger are at a greatest risk of complications from influenza than older children are,” she said.
However, getting vaccinated is not the only thing Albertans can do to protect themselves and others against influenza.
“There’s some other things that people can do to keep themselves healthy throughout the raspatory virus season which is upon us now.
Including washing your hands frequently and keeping your hands away from your face,” MacDonald said.
She added, if you develop a cough or a sneeze make sure you do it in a tissue or in your sleeves and wash your hands afterwards.
Lastly, if you do get sick stay home, don’t go to school, and don’t go to work, nobody wants to share germs, MacDonald said.
The best way for Albertans to find dates and times for a public health clinic that is administrating influenza vaccinations close to them is to visit the Alberta Health Services Website at www.albertahealthservices.ca/influenza/influenza.aspx.