With the arrival of flu season, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) urges residents to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families against getting and spreading the flu, and to ease the burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year’s flu season was mild both locally and provincially due to COVID-19 public health measures that prevented travelling and gatherings and promoted physical distancing and mask wearing,” said Dr. Colin Lee, SMDHU associate medical officer of health. “We expect that as these measures are gradually lifted in Ontario, influenza activity will increase during the 2021/2022 season.”
While it is recommended that everyone six months of age and older get the flu shot, some individuals are more vulnerable to complications and hospitalization from the flu and are encouraged to get the flu shot as soon as possible.
Those considered high-risk include:
- Individuals who are pregnant,
- People who are residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities,
- People 65 years of age and older,
- All children six months to four years of age,
- Indigenous peoples,
- Adults or children six months of age and over with chronic health conditions, and
- Healthcare providers.
Swine, poultry, and animal shelter workers should also get the flu shot as early as possible to prevent the spreading of flu viruses between human and animal populations.
The flu shot is now available free of charge to all residents over the age of six months through primary care providers and pharmacies. For those in high-risk groups, the influenza vaccine is also available in other settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, some workplaces, hospitals, and community health centres.
Seasonal flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, but it will help reduce the risk of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time which could put individuals at a higher risk for severe complications. Individuals who have not received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are able to receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time, as recommended by the National Advisory on Immunization (NACI).
Influenza vaccines available in Canada are produced by different pharmaceutical companies and have been approved for use by Health Canada. These vaccines all safely protect against influenza, and therefore one brand of flu shot is not recommended over others. Individuals are encouraged to take the vaccine that is offered to them by their pharmacist or health care provider.
For more information about influenza and getting the flu shot, visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s website at smdhu.org or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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