Coughs and sneezes heard around town will let you know that it’s flu season and health professionals are reporting a steady increase of people getting flu shots each year.
“More and more people are getting vaccinated over the seasons,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano, a medical health officer with Island Health. “Year on year we’re ordering more vaccines and people are coming to get it.”
In 2017 alone, more than 240,000 people received vaccinations on Vancouver Island.
Hoyano attributes this in part to a much wider availability of flu shots since pharmacists also started giving vaccinations over the last few years, alongside nurses and physicians at walk-in clinics and public health units.
Twice per year the World Health Organization will decide which strains of the influenza virus should be in the vaccines by following global trends and making regional recommendations. There are two different family strains, influenza A and influenza B, and usually the vaccine consists of a combination of several varieties of each.
“Usually, there are at least two ‘A’ strains and one or two ‘B’ strains,” Hoyano explained. “It’s difficult to say what strain will be most common. They try to make it broad so that it will be most effective.”
From a series of global studies it has been shown that people with vaccinations are 40 to 60 per cent less likely to get the flu, depending on the season and on a person’s overall health.
“We do know some groups of people who do not respond as well [to getting the flu], mostly the elderly and those with weakened immune systems,” Hoyano said. “That’s why we emphasize that if you work with those populations that you should also get vaccinated.”
The viruses used in flu shots are inactive, so people cannot get sick from them, though they may experience some side effects such as a sore arm or feeling tired.
Adults can now get immunized through local pharmacies or by a physician, and children, youth and caregivers are welcome at public health clinics beginning Oct. 24.
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