While the weather is currently feeling more like spring than fall, it’s that time of the year again where people are encouraged to get their flu shots.
Free flu shots will be available beginning on Oct. 22 at public health clinics, local pharmacies and some physician and nurse practitioner offices across the province.
Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab said it’s never been easier to get the vaccine and encourages people to get the shot early.
“Even though we’ve got beautiful fall weather, don’t wait too long and try to get it over the next couple of weeks, it really reduces your risk of getting influenza which can be quite worse than the common cold,” Shahab said.
People most at risk for the flu are young children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. Shahab said research shows pregnant women are at higher risk of influenza complications, especially in the second and third trimester.
“If you get the flu vaccine while you’re pregnant, you protect your child till age six months.”
Shahab said more and more pharmacies have been offering the flu vaccine every year, with 340 offering it out of 380 in the province.
About 26 per cent of people in the province received the flu vaccination last year. Shahab said the number of people getting it has been increasing in recent years. He noted during the H1N1 pandemic, about 50 per cent of people got the flu shot but after that, it dropped to below 20 per cent.
This year, 368,000 doses of the vaccine were ordered. The vaccine has two A strains – H1N1 and H3N2 strain — and two B strains.
Shahab said the influenza A strain goes around early in the winter and sometimes a significant B strain goes around.
Shahab said they look at what has happened in the southern hemisphere when decided what strains to use in the vaccine.
“The vaccine that we are using was well matched with the H1N1 strain that went around in Australia, they had lower hospitalizations and deaths this year than last year, so we are very confident depending on which stream goes around, if it follows what happened in the southern hemisphere, confident that the vaccine will be very effective,” Shahab said.
He said if you do feel ill, you should stay home so as to not get other sick.