As flu season approaches, there are several concerns about how the influenza virus may exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite a record-low number of flu cases last year, experts anticipate the flu season will be much more severe than last year because people are returning to their regular work and school routines. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to serve as a stark reminder of the significance of immunizations and the crucial necessity of pandemic control. To better understand why flu vaccines are so important, especially during the COVID epidemic, let’s look at some key information.
What is a Flu Shot?
Flu shots, or also known as influenza vaccines, are immunizations that protect against infection by influenza viruses. As the annual seasonal flu vaccine contains three to four components, it is often referred to as a trivalent or quadrivalent vaccination, indicating that the antibodies it produces are specific to three to four influenza virus subtypes. The viruses in an annual flu vaccination are picked after careful consideration by the World Health Organization based on which are anticipated to proliferate during that year’s flu season.
Why is the vaccine essential especially during the COVID pandemic?
Both the flu and COVID are contagious and can spread quickly through droplets from actions such as coughing or sneezing; both viruses can also lead to serious complications and illnesses of the lungs and can cause deaths in severe cases. Given its contagious nature and potential to cause severe problems for our bodies, it is not challenging to understand that protection against a deadly virus such as the influenza virus will be vital in helping us protect each other and avoid any further risk of lockdowns. As the influenza virus mutates very quickly from year to year, it is crucial to update your immune system’s antibodies to provide the best protection against the most prevalent strains that are now circulating.
Who needs an influenza shot?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone aged six months and older should get vaccinated against the flu. Certain groups are more susceptible than others; some of which include the elderly, pregnant women, young children, those with respiratory problems like asthma and people who are immunosuppressive patients or use drugs. Please take note that children under the age of 9 who are receiving their FIRST flu vaccination will need a SECOND dose 4 weeks later to ensure a sufficient immune response.
Can the flu and COVID vaccines be given at the same time?
If the clinic offers both vaccines, you can get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine at the same time as it is safe and effective to receive both at the same time.
Information on the 2022 BC flu season
For community pharmacies, the 2022 flu season officially begins on October 11, 2022. Anyone in British Columbia who wants to protect themselves from the influenza virus can get the flu shot for free this season; there are no residency or travel requirements.
The publicly-funded flu vaccines available in community pharmacies in BC are:
Quadrivalent is an inactivated vaccine that is recommended for those aged 6 months to 64 years old; Fluzone can be given to those that are 65+ if Flaud is not available.
Due to a unique component added to the vaccination to encourage a higher immune response, the trivalent adjuvanted vaccine is a particular inactivated formulation intended for people 65 and older.
Quadrivalent is a LIVE vaccine that is intended for those aged 2-17 who may be more difficult to vaccinate with needles. This vaccine is given intranasally and is usually available a little bit later during the flu season compared to the injectable vaccines.
How is the flu shot given?
Flu shots are available starting on October 11, 2022. If you have a BC care card number, you may be eligible for further vaccinations; if you don’t, call 1-833-838-2323 or register with the BC vaccination system https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/register. They will collect the necessary information from you to help you move forward with acquiring vaccination doses in BC. After you book an appointment, bring your health card or ID to CRC Drugs. CRC Drugs provides needle vaccines for people over age four and nasal spray vaccines for people over age two.
Starting on October 11th, you can receive your COVID and/or influenza vaccines at CRC Drugs from Monday to Saturday, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm. While CRC Drugs will do their best to accommodate walk-ins, due to the typically high amount of flu vaccine demand in the first few weeks, wait times may be higher than usual. Appointments are advised but not necessary. You can come in for a walk-in while supplies last. Our pharmacy walk-ins are Monday to Saturday, 9:30-5:30am.
Flu infections have decreased over the last two years due to the widespread usage of face masks and frequent handwashing. However, preventative measures such as receiving both immunizations are still highly advised. When feasible, you should renew your influenza immunity once a year, as the best way to avoid getting the flu is by getting vaccinated. To help reduce the spread of COVID and flu infections, please consider wearing a face mask, washing your hands often and getting the updated vaccinations against both vaccines.