As flu shots become available to the public, Manitoba public health officials are again encouraging people to get immunized against the seasonal illness to protect not only themselves but also others.
Manitoba Health says it’ll be launching this season’s flu campaign shortly, as more than 60 per cent of this year’s influenza vaccine has arrived in the province.
Priority locations like First Nations communities, hospitals and long-term care facilities have already received their shipments, while deliveries to clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies are ongoing, a department spokesperson said Thursday.
The province has recorded one influenza case since Sept. 1, the spokesperson said. Experts have previously told Global News there were fewer cases last year owing to the reality of living with COVID-19 such as mask-wearing, physical distancing and testing primarily for that illness.
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A record number of Manitobans — 31.5 per cent of the population — lined up last year to their flu shots, an increase of more than 26 per cent over the year before.
“Every year you hear us talking about how important it is to get the shot to protect yourself but also the people around you, and this year is no different,” medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine task force Dr. Joss Reimer told Global News on Thursday.
“What we also know is that because there’s so many changes right now about how we need to act when we have even mild symptoms, that’s another reason to protect yourself.”
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Reimer says getting the flu can be disruptive, even for those who aren’t at risk of severe outcomes, adding that people can now get both a COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine at the same time, as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization changed their advice at the end of September.
“That’s going to help bring down some of those barriers for people who aren’t going to be able to come in multiple times for those injections.”
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The province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said last week we’ll probably see a resurgence in other typical respiratory viruses if we continue our social interactions. These include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinovirus — otherwise known as the common cold — which he says is already circulating among Manitobans.
People experiencing symptoms should get tested for COVID-19, Roussin said, because it can be difficult to tell a cold, flu or COVID apart based solely on symptoms.
“We don’t have a clinical way of distinguishing between those respiratory viruses,” Roussin said. “That can cause a significant burden on individuals, but our health-care system is under strain. Whatever we can do to minimize the transmission of any of these respiratory viruses (is in) … all of our best interests.”
Where you can get your flu vaccine
All Manitobans aged six months old and up can get their seasonal flu vaccine for free at an ACCESS Centre, doctor’s office, nursing station, public health office or pharmacy.
However, those hoping to get immunized against influenza at a pharmacy need to be at least seven years old, and influenza vaccines haven’t arrived at all locations like pharmacies just yet.
Manitoba Health advises people to call in advance to make sure influenza vaccines are available at their location of choice.
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