Vaccinations to fight off the flu are now available in Red Deer to help reduce the spread of seasonal influenza.
So far Alberta has reported 40 lab-confirmed flu cases, including four in Alberta Health Services Central Zone.
Ten people with the flu have been hospitalized in the province, none of them in Central Zone. No deaths have been reported.
Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, AHS Central Zone medical officer of health, said last year the number of people vaccinated against the flu was dismal.
“The overall uptake last year was about 27 per cent, and a good number of that 27 per cent were seniors in long-term care and continuing care facilities. We’re hoping many more people from the community will take advantage of it this time around,” Achebe said.
Influenza is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by a virus spread through the air. It is also spread by touching objects that have been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the flu.
During the 2021-22 flu season, there were 2,906 lab-confirmed influenza cases, 523 hospitalizations and 14 deaths in hospital.
Achebe said it’s difficult to know when cases will spike.
“This past season we saw a lot of cases in April and May. We can’t really predict from the number of cases we have now. The advice still remains people should get their shots and get ready, and get protected, not just from themselves but their loved ones.”
Australia saw its worst flu season in five years, she added.
Influenza vaccine became available at local AHS public health clinics on Monday. Appointments must be booked online. Walk-in immunizations are not available.
Immunization at these clinics will focus on:
• Children six months of age to under five years of age and their family and household members.
• Individuals who do not have a provincial health care number.
• Individuals who live in a community where there are no other immunizing health care providers.
• Individuals with booked appointments for other immunizations.
Other Albertans, five years of age and older, can get their flu shot at local pharmacies, and some doctor’s offices, but people should check to confirm where vaccine is available.
The province purchased 1.9 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2022-23 season, which is available for free to Albertans.
Those age 65 and older will be able to get a high-dose influenza vaccine, while Albertans six months to age 64 will get the usual dose. Both vaccines provide protection against four common strains of influenza virus.
Dr. Peter Bouch, with Red Deer Primary Care Network, said COVID-19 protocols reduced the spread of influenza last year. Now that things like masks and physical distancing requirements are gone, he really hoped people will get their flu shot.
He said quite often people who catch the flu are worried it’s COVID. They are anxious and they test themselves a lot.
“The flu shot has been shown to be quite effective, especially in people who have respiratory problems and people at higher risk,” Bouch said.
COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, may also be offered to individuals that are eligible with each influenza vaccine appointment booked.
A separate appointment is not necessary for COVID-19 vaccine. People can speak to their immunizer on COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and availability. Vaccine brands will vary by location. For more information visit ahs.ca/vaccine.
Influenza immunization appointments are available through the Alberta Vaccine Appointment System at bookvaccine.alberta.ca or by calling Health Link at 811.