Manitobans encouraged to get flu vaccine

A nurse loads a syringe with flu vaccine on Oct. 23, 2004 in Victoria. CHUCK STOODY / THE CANADIAN PRESS

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The seasonal flu vaccine is once again available free of charge to all Manitobans aged six months and older, Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen announced today at the official launch of the annual influenza immunization campaign.

“Getting the flu vaccine is important for the health of all Manitobans, but especially for those at increased risk of serious illness from the flu, their caregivers, and close family and friends,” said Friesen, who received his vaccination this morning at Morden Drugstore. “Every Manitoban knows an infant, a senior, someone with diabetes or asthma, or someone seeking treatment for cancer. Because of this, I encourage Manitobans to protect themselves, as well as others, by getting their no-charge flu immunization this fall.”

Forty-six people with lab-confirmed cases of the flu died in Manitoba last winter, the highest number in three years, while another 35 were admitted into intensive care units. In total, there were 505 hospitalizations due to influenza during the 2017-18 season, more than the previous two seasons combined and the highest since 2009-10. The number of hospitalizations last winter due to patients suffering from the flu created backlogs in emergency departments and urgent care centres.

“Flu vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing illness for many Manitobans,” said Dr. Michael Isaac, Manitoba’s acting chief provincial public health officer. “Manitobans are encouraged to get the vaccine and reduce the risk of contracting influenza and the potential health complications that can come with it, both for themselves and for others.”

A record number of people received flu vaccines last winter in Manitoba, with more than 320,000 doses administered. In total, 22.5 per cent of Manitobans registered with Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living received the vaccine.

A special high-dose seasonal flu vaccine is once again available for senior residents of long-term care facilities. Introduced last year, the high-dose vaccine may provide better protection for those at increased risk of complications from the flu, potentially reducing the number of outbreaks experienced in long-term care facilities.

“Flu vaccines are a great preventative measure that reduces the risk of illness for all Manitobans, but particularly for older adults,” said Connie Newman, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres. “Flu vaccines are especially important for those of us as we age who have other conditions which become more complicated: cardiac, pulmonary and kidney disorders, along with cancers and diabetes. Having this vaccine is a tool to help us avoid the flu.”

The flu vaccine and Pneu-P-23 vaccine, which helps protect against pneumococcal disease and is offered free of charge to seniors, are available at local public health offices, nursing stations, doctors’ offices, and Access Centres. Pharmacists can also provide immunization services to people seven years of age and older. Manitobans interested in getting the vaccine should contact providers first to ensure they are available.

Regional health authorities will also soon begin immunization clinics. Check Manitoba’s seasonal influenza website or contact Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or 1-888-315-9257 toll-free for dates, times and locations.

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