Flu shots are available once again across Alberta.
All Albertans older than six months are eligible to be immunized, free of charge.
This year, the province has shifted away from providing the influenza vaccine at large public health clinics because of COVID-19, according to Alberta Health Services.
Instead, flu shots are being provided free of charge at pharmacies and doctors’ offices.
Pharmacies are offering the vaccine to Albertans five years and older. Physicians are offering vaccines to everyone nine years of age and older, with some providing vaccines to children aged between six months and eight years of age (call to confirm).
AHS is offering immunizations by appointment to children under five years old and to anyone sharing a household with them.
Individuals under the age of nine need two doses, received at least four weeks apart. Everyone else needs only one dose per flu season.
There are multiple types of flu vaccine approved for use in Canada. Some are trivalent, meaning they confer immunity against three strains of flu, including two influenza A strains (H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes) and one influenza B strain, while some are quadrivalent (four strains), conferring immunity against an additional influenza B strain.
A high-dose influenza vaccine is being offered to residents who are 65 years and older in provincially funded long-term care facilities.
While everyone is at risk of contracting influenza, people with heart or lung conditions, diabetes, a weak immune system, obesity or other health problems are more likely to become very sick and develop other health problems. Additionally, people living in care facilities, are under the age of five or over the age of 65, are pregnant, or are Indigenous are considered to be at higher risk, according to Alberta Health Services.
In addition to protecting vulnerable Albertans, immunization will lessen the burden on the health care system that is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, by decreasing influenza-related tests, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, according to a government press release.
A record 1.96 million doses of vaccine have been ordered by the government, which is enough to immunize about 45 per cent of the population. Last year’s immunization rate was 33 per cent, an increase from 30 per cent in the year prior.
Anyone with flu symptoms should book a test for COVID-19, as the two viruses present similar symptoms, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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