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Manitoba Health taking new flu vaccine approaches: ‘It is going to feel different’

Click to play video 'Manitoba prepares for flu season amid COVID-19' Manitoba prepares for flu season amid COVID-19

Every year, thousands of Manitobans roll up their sleeves to get the flu vaccine, but this year, getting immunized is going to look different.

“Manitobans should expect that it is going to feel different this year,” Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa told Global News.

READ MORE: Manitobans, health officials gearing up for unpredictable flu season

For months the province has been putting plans in place to be able to safely vaccinate people in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Looking at what kind of staffing needs is there’s going to be to immunize people for influenza, looking at space considerations,” Siragusa said. “We will need bigger spaces, people need to be physically distanced.”

The province is also looking at a new approach, where in some situations, staff will be sent out to vaccinate people as opposed to needing them to come to a clinic.

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In some areas, it could also mean patients will need to book an appointment to get their flu shot as opposed to just being able to walk-in to a clinic or hospital.

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“(COVID-10 has) really forced us to think differently and be innovative in our approaches,” she said.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: CDC director encourages flu vaccine, continued mask wearing as cold weather approaches' Coronavirus: CDC director encourages flu vaccine, continued mask wearing as cold weather approaches
Coronavirus: CDC director encourages flu vaccine, continued mask wearing as cold weather approaches

On average, around 26 per cent of Manitobans get the flu shot each year. This year the province is anticipating an influx of people seeking shots and increased its vaccine order by 20 per cent.

Last year, influenza and respiratory illnesses such as head and chest colds took an early hold in Manitoba.

READ MORE: Influenza, respiratory illness take early hold in Manitoba

“Respiratory illness including influenza is increasing across the province,” Dr. Michael Isaac, acting chief provincial health officer, said at the time.

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The timing and intensity of both influenza A and B hitting simultaneously overwhelmed Winnipeg’s hospitals.

Patients at emergency departments and urgent care centres around Winnipeg experienced extra-long wait times.

There is a concern hospitals could be overwhelmed if the same situation happens again this season, while COVID-19 cases also add stress to the situation.

Read more: Coronavirus: What is a ‘twindemic?’ We answer your COVID-19 questions

Health-care officials have been monitoring hospitals and believe they are ready if that happens.

“We’ve been planning for months to increase capacity in acute care, if and when we need to do that,” Siragusa said.

“We are looking at staffing models, expanding the footprint if we have to for critical care and medicine beds, we have ordered supplies, we have ordered equipment.”