By Shenaz Singh
The cold weather has arrived, and with it, another tough flu season. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Canada is entering an influenza epidemic as cases of the flu rise beyond the seasonal threshold. Pandemic health and safety measures and lack of exposure to flu and illness have caused immunities to wane, meaning we’re all at a greater risk of getting sick, especially our more vulnerable community members.
Over the past two years, we’ve heard a lot about viruses and vaccines. Between COVID-19 and the flu, there has been a lot of conversation around the concerns of getting ill, but also around practices we can take to protect ourselves, loved ones and community.
This winter, it’s important we all take any steps we can to prevent the spread of flu and COVID-19. As your Chilliwack pharmacist, I’m here to support our community this flu season. To help, I’ve put together some tips for preventing illness this winter.
• Get your flu shot: Sleeves up! Getting your annual flu shot is one of the best (and easiest) ways to protect yourself. Flu shots help to boost your immunity and can prevent worsening of symptoms and complications from the flu. In order to have continued protection, you need to get your flu shot annually as influenza immunity loses strength over time. In years where the flu shot has been well-matched, 70 – 90 per cent of flu cases have been averted through vaccination. You can book a flu shot appointment at shoppersdrugmart.ca/flu or through the PC Health app, available to download for free at www.pchealth.ca.
• Consider getting your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters: Many patients don’t realize you can get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time. As per current NACI guidelines, it is safe to get both vaccines during one appointment, making it twice as convenient to protect yourself against both viruses. According to Health Canada, for best protection against COVID-19, it’s important to stay up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, even if you’ve been previously infected with COVID-19. If your last dose was more than nine months ago, you are no longer considered adequately vaccinated. If you have any questions, make sure you ask a healthcare practitioner like your local pharmacist or family physician, as they are qualified to answer. For those 18 years and older, ask your pharmacist about the Bivalent booster dose, available at your local pharmacy via appointment or walk-in.
• Keep your germs to yourself: Despite our best prevention efforts, sometimes we still get sick. If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect the vulnerable members of our community. Stay home and isolate while you are feeling under the weather to prevent the spread of illness.
Because of lack of exposure to the flu in recent years, it is especially important we take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones this season. Be sure to visit your local pharmacy to get your flu shot and your COVID-19 vaccine – it’s our best shot at protecting our communities this season.
Shenaz Singh is a pharmacist and owner of a Shoppers Drug Mart in Chilliwack. Visit ShoppersDrugMart.ca to find your nearest store.