A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month.  (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

Interior Health is expecting an upswing in area residents seeking a flu shot this fall.

The health authority has received 320,000 doses for distribution this year, about a 10 per cent increase over last year.

Dr. Carol Fenton, a medical health officer with Interior Health (IH), said the higher demand can be attributed to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with health officials across Canada promoting people to mitigate the flu-related potential impact on our health care system.

Fenton said there are two reasons why flu shots are important: to not place an unnecessary burden on hospitals and to prevent the spread of the flu in schools and workplaces.

She said those most vulnerable to influenza, a contagious respiratory infection, include adults and children with underlying health conditions, residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities, people 65 years of age and older, children under 60 months of age, pregnant women, and Indigenous peoples.

“It’s important for everyone to be vaccinated, even for people who are low risk for serious illness from influenza. That’s because they can pass it on to other people,” Fenton said.

““Healthy adults, for example, are the ones who drop the kids off at daycare and go to work, or drop off and pick up their kids at school, then make a stop at the store on the way home and maybe a visit to see grandma. If that person is vaccinated, the potential for flu transmission to others is reduced.”

READ MORE: Kelowna clinic offers drive-thr flu shots

READ MORE: Study says flu vaccine did its job last winter

She said IH will rely largely on health care providers or pharmacies to deliver the vaccine to patients. Check out https://immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu#8/49.246/-123.116 to find the free flu vaccine provider near you.

“If that option doesn’t exist where you live, then call the public health clinic, but our emphasis is on delivering the flu vaccine through the community providers,” she said.

Fenton said the combination of COVID-19 and flu health concerns could be a volatile mix, the flu season specifically tends to start gaining traction at this point of the year, peeking out at the end of December or the first week or two of January, then peters out by April.

She said the flu season itself a result of the onset of colder weather: more people are staying indoors which raises the incident potential of flu germ transmission, and less humidity in the air so viral particles last longer.

Fenton said there is an element of science guesswork that goes into creating the flu vaccine, but that is necessary to have it manufactured and distributed in the summer to be ready for fall delivery when it’s needed.

“It might not always be 100 per cent effective against a given flu virus, but it is in the 50 to 80 per cent ballpark of effectiveness, and we do know beyond that 80 per cent point while people might still get infected, they are not as sick as if they did not have the vaccine.”

Fenton said the anti-vax community sentiment is out there, but having a conversation with your family doctor or other health care provider is the best way to alleviate any concerns.

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