Island Health is encouraging the public to get their annual flu shot. (File photo)

Flu shots are now available in Greater Victoria

Pharmacies and public health units now offering 2017-18 vaccine

It’s that time of year again – flu season.

You can now get your vaccination at pharmacies and clinics throughout Greater Victoria.

Dr. Geoff McKee, Island Health’s resident medical health officer, said the health authority will see a rising number of flu cases through fall, winter and early spring.

“We often see an increase at this time of the year as the weather changes,” McKee said. “We have more people in closer quarters indoors and we have more chances for respiratory viruses to spread. We are just early in the season so at this time it is unclear exactly which strains are spreading.”

While it isn’t clear quite yet which strains are hitting, Health Link B.C. said the 2017-18 trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines contain A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus, A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus, B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus, and B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (in quadrivalent vaccines only). McKee added they typically see the A strain this time of year and strains included in the flu shot are based on what strains are being seen around the world.

McKee noted there are preventative ways to use to help reduce your chance of getting the flu or spreading it.

“Making sure that you wash your hands,” he explained. “Also importantly, getting your flu shot which comes out in October. They are starting to be sent out to family physicians offices, public health units as well as pharmacies.”

While there are myths that the flu vaccine can make you sick, McKee said the shot itself is actually very safe.

“It’s an inactivated virus so it’s actually not going to cause the flu,” he said. “People can sometimes have a little reaction to the flu vaccine or any vaccine in general which is often very mild. It’s a very safe vaccine. It isn’t 100 per cent effective but it is one of our best tools to prevent influenza.”

To find out if you are eligible for a free flu shot, visit viha.ca/flu/eligibility.html.

To find the location nearest you, visit bit.ly/2iaRYah for a locator tool. You can also call your local pharmacy or doctors office to find out if they are distributing the vaccine.


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jessica.fedigan@goldstreamgazette.com

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