Island Health braces for flu season

Increased amount of vaccine ordered to take on upcoming season

Island Health is gearing up for the flu season, and expects more people than ever to get vaccinated this year.

The health authority has ordered 268,700 doses of flu vaccine this year, up 25,750 doses from last year. Pharmacies and doctors’ offices have also ordered vaccine.

Last year the province faced a shortage of flu vaccine.

“Planning ahead and getting your flu shot early is an important way to protect yourself and the people in your life who are vulnerable to complications from influenza,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano, medical health officer for Island Health.

Physicians, pharmacists and Island Health Public Health units will be providing free flu shots to people at high risk of complications from influenza and their close contacts as well as other eligible groups in communities across the Island.

Free immunization clinics offered by Island Health begin next week.

Those who are not eligible for the free vaccine are encouraged to get vaccinated by their family physician or pharmacist for a nominal cost.

Last week, Island Health began immunizing health-care workers. In 2013, more than 70 per cent of health-care workers on the Island received a flu shot.

Sarah Plank, Island Health media manager, said the health authority hopes to increase the immunization rate among health-care workers and the general public.

Getting more people immunized would help already busy hospitals from being overloaded during the flu season.

“It can be a very serious illness and lead to death and hospitalization,” Plank said. “It puts a lot of pressure on our hospitals and emergency departments.”

Flu season usually begins in December and runs through April, but there are some indications, the season could start earlier this year.

For up to date information about Island Health’s Public Health flu clinic dates and times, residents are encouraged to go online to viha.ca/flu.