More flu vaccine given to pharmacists, doctors so far this year



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Three weeks after Island Health's annual flu vaccine campaign, the amount of vaccine distributed to pharmacists and doctors has increased over the same period in 2017.

There were 235,984 doses sent to health professionals, more than 10,000 doses compared to the total of 225,621 last year. This follows an upward trend in the number of people who have been vaccinated in recent flu seasons.

"We've always asked for a little more over the years," said Dr. Dee Hoyano, an Island Health medical officer.

The total number of doses administered in the 2017-18 flu season was greater than 275,000.

Island Health also reports a slight increase in the number of adults and children immunized by public health nurses at the three-week mark – up 10,280 from 10,266 last year.

There is still time to take a picture in the best window of the season, Hoyano said.

"Ideally, we like to see everyone who is going to be vaccinated do it in the next two weeks before you arrive in December because it is usually when we start to see more flu activities happening," she said.

Flu cases in 2017-18 stretched into April, but Hoyano said the season is typically between December and March.

She said health officials are still waiting to see how severe the 2018-19 flu season will be and which strains will dominate. The vaccine at this station covers two A strains and one B strain. As in most seasons, it is expected to be 40-60 percent effective.

"At this time, the results of the flu we have show that most of them are from influenza A and H1N1," Hoyano said.

"I think it's probably what we're going to see at least at the beginning of the flu season, but I would not say that excludes the possibility of seeing another later, too, later."

Hoyano said she had her shot a few weeks ago.

"This reduces the risk of getting the flu and also passing it on to others," she said. "Prevention is one of the best choices you can make in terms of flu."

Good hygiene can also help prevent the flu, along with other respiratory viruses, such as colds, she said.

Influenza vaccines cost $ 25, but are free for children ages six months to five, people 65 and older, and those at high risk for complications from heart disease, cancer, and other conditions.

Every year in Canada, there are about 3,500 flu-related deaths and 12,200 hospital admissions.

The free vaccine is available in public health clinics, in some doctors' offices, and in most pharmacies. Those who are not eligible for the free vaccine can get it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.

For an influenza vaccine clinic near you, go to immunizebc.ca/clinics.

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