Flu shots are now available in Lethbridge as immunization clinics kicked off across Alberta on Monday.
Alberta Heath Services is emphasizing the importance of getting the jab this year as health officials predict a surge in flu cases this winter.
“This year, if it’s anything like in the southern hemisphere — like in Australia, for example — we may see significant influenza cases,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health in Alberta’s south zone.
Suttorp says after a couple of slower flu seasons, getting immunized is in the best interest of Alberta residents this year.
“We have not seen influenza for a couple of years — we have not been exposed to it,” she said. “It’s important for individuals to have a bit of that leg up with an immunization dose.”
AHS is offering the flu vaccine through public health clinics, which are open to children under five and their household members, people who do not have a provincial health care number and individuals who live in communities where there are no other immunizing health care providers.
The Lethbridge Soup Kitchen hosted an on-site vaccination clinic for the city’s most vulnerable residents on Monday. Medicine Shoppe pharmacist Vishal Sukhadiya said it’s important to make the shot easily accessible to all residents in Lethbridge — even if they don’t know about it.
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“Because of the lack of education it’s hard to convince them but they are the most vulnerable group,” Sukhadiya said. “If they contract the flu, they are the ones who will end up in the hospital because of their lowered immune system due to some underlying medical conditions.”
AHS said this year’s flu shot will have a wide range of coverage.
“The vaccine this year contains four different types of influenza strains,” Suttorp said. “For seniors 65 and over, it’s a high dose version where there is a better immune response for seniors.”
Albertans over the age of five can also get immunized at local pharmacies and some doctors are offering flu shots as well.
AHS said COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, may also be offered to people that are eligible with each influenza vaccine appointment booked.