As of Thursday, roughly 15 per cent of Saskatchewan residents received an influenza vaccine.
The Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program (CRISP) reported on Thursday that influenza cases have been on the rise with 61 per cent of cases in kids and youth up to 19 years old.
“With an increase of respiratory illnesses this fall, including influenza, all residents should get up-to-date with available vaccinations,” provincial Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said.
“In Saskatchewan, we are fortunate to have safe and effective vaccines for influenza and COVID-19. However, COVID-19 is not the flu and COVID-19 vaccines will not protect you from influenza. The best way to protect yourself and your family against influenza is to get the annual flu shot.”
Shahab said he advises people to wear masks, but noted that a school mandate for masks may not help.
“Children are doing all their post-school activities. Children are socializing, having sleepovers, all those things that are important for normal child development. I think a lot of transmission happens in social settings in the household. So I think we need to make sure schools are mask-friendly.”
He said he has talked with medical health officers and a mask mandate probably isn’t feasible at this point.
“Never say never to anything.”
”A number of respiratory illnesses are currently putting pressure on Saskatchewan’s acute care system,” Shahab said.
“The best way to protect yourself against influenza is to be immunized layered with common sense measures like staying home when sick, washing your hands frequently and choosing to wear a mask when you feel it appropriate.”
The flu shots can be received at participating pharmacies, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) clinics, and some physician and nurse practitioner offices.
Dr. Athena McConnell, who is a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist, said there are more kids coming into the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital emergency than over the summer, adding that a relaxation of COVID-19 measures and a shortage of children’s pain medication is contributing to the higher numbers.
“When we have families who don’t have access to Tylenol and Advil to lower their kids’ fever, there is going to be more anxiety. And some of that is going to drive families to bring their children into emergency… because they don’t have the measures at home to be able to care for those children at home,” McConnell said.
The Saskatoon Public School Division stated they are seeing an increase in absences due to illness compared to their last average school year in 2019.
The administrator of Safe Schools Saskatchewan says parents expressed a major concern about feeling pressured to send kids to school when the parents and the teachers know the kids should not be there because they’re just spreading more viruses.
“There’s pressure for working parents to use the school as a daycare,” said Margi Corbett, who is also a retired teacher. “There’s pressure for teachers to allow kids to stay in all day and not send them home halfway through the day because their parents aren’t home. There’s a lot of pressure just on the number of absentees … parents and teachers are feeling the pressure.”
Corbett says she would like to see masking mandated in all indoor spaces and to see improved ventilation in classrooms.
— With files from Jeanelle Mandes