Saskatchewan gets ready for flu season with free immunization clinics

Flu vaccinations start on Oct. 31 in Saskatchewan. File / Global News

Flu season will soon be underway and Saskatchewan is opening free vaccination clinics across the province for residents six months and older.

Starting on Oct. 31, the flu vaccine will be available at public health clinics across the province. The shots will also be available at participating pharmacies and physician and nurse practioner offices.

“Anyone who wants to reduce the risk of getting influenza should consider getting it,” Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saquib Shahab, said.

However, pharmacists can only immunize adults and children nine years of age and older who have a valid Saskatchewan health card.

Children under nine can be vaccinated at a public health clinic.

This year, only the flu injection will be offered at the clinics instead of the nasal spray. The vaccine protects against four different flu virus strains likely to circulate in the 2016-17 flu season. There are 380,000 doses available and last year 330,000 doses were given out.

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Shahab said people at high risk of getting the flu, such as seniors over the age of 65, are not getting the shot at a level required for protection.
“Only two out of three, about 66 per cent, actually get it,” Shahab said.

Other at-risk groups include people with underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, chronic heart or lung disease, a neurological condition or those under treatment for cancer.

According to Shahab, only 40 per cent of children between six months to five get the flu shot. Looking at the entire population, Shahab said around a third of residents get the flu vaccine.

“Children in that age group especially can get seriously ill and require hospitalization,” Shahab said.

“It’s not just seniors or people with underlying health conditions but even otherwise healthy children can get seriously ill with influenza.”

Earlier this year, the government reported 3,118 lab-confirmed influenza cased between Sep. 1, 2015 and April 30.

“Last year, the flu season started quite late. It started around the end of January,” Shahab said.

“The year before that, the flu season was quite active around the end of December but it can vary.”

Clinic times or locations are available on health region websites, at the local public health office or by calling HealthLine at 811.

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