Health officials aren’t expecting a mass H1N1 vaccination like last year, but people should still get their flu shot as soon as possible, says Vancouver Island’s top doctor.
“The vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself from flu epidemics that happen every year,” said Dr. Murray Fyfe, chief medical health officer with Vancouver Island Health Authority.
While cold and stomach flu viruses made the rounds in past months, Fyfe points out it’s still early for more serious influenza attacks, which usually affect people between November and January.
“It’s best to get vaccinated as soon as you can,” he said. “It takes about two weeks for your system to build up immunity to the flu strains in the vaccine.”
Seniors over 65, toddlers between six and 23 months of age and caregivers, among other at-risk groups can receive a free flu vaccine beginning today (Oct. 14).
This year’s flu shot includes protection from H1N1 and two other strains of the virus. Fyfe expects a fairly regular flu season this year, given there haven’t been outbreaks of new viruses in other parts of the world.
Still, it’s no guarantee.
“Flu viruses are very unpredictable and can mutate mid-season,” Fyfe said, explaining that is why people who are vaccinated may still get the flu.
For times and locations, as well as eligibility criteria for free flu shots, see www.viha.ca/flu/public.
Seniors, toddlers and other at-risk groups can get a free flu shot on Oct. 14 at West Shore Parks and Recreation, Lookout Lounge, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.