With the season for extreme sniffles around the corner, the Fraser Health Authority is rolling out flu vaccinations to curb it this week.
Bil Ahira owns the Shoppers' Drug Mart pharmacy in High Gate Village and he was picking up his week's flu vaccination allotment. He said he already had people waiting to get the shot.
"Last year, we probably administered 500 vaccines," he told the NOW. "This year, we'll probably do about the same, if not more."
Ahira said people have already been calling him asking about the vaccination and 20 people were coming in the first night to get the shot done.
"It's important, just because last year was such a bad flu season," he added. "It's a major cause of absences at work, and for the elderly it's a major cause for mortality. And get it quickly so you can get the protection before there's an outbreak, if there's an outbreak."
Ahira said he's been a pharmacist for 15 years, and in the last three years that pharmacist's have been allowed to administer flu shots, he says last year was the worst besides the year of the H1N1 outbreak.
"I think it's important for people to know they can get it at the pharmacist," he said. "People don't have to worry about going to their doctor, or going to a walk-in clinic and waiting for an hour for the doctor. It's important they know they can get it outside regular hours."
That's one of the messages the Fraser Health Authority wants to people to know - that pharmacies, general practitioners and walk-in clinics are all administering the vaccine now.
"The flu shot really is your best protection against the flu," Dr. Michelle Murti, Fraser Health Authority medical health officer, told the Burnaby NOW. "Although there are people (who get) some side effects. It's much, much better to get the flu shot than getting flu."
Flu shots are recommended for everyone and the eligibility criteria to get one for free is fairly loose. In B.C., it's free for children from six months to five years of age, people 65-years and older, pregnant women, Aboriginal people, people with chronic health conditions and those with compromised immune systems.
"Last year was a really bad year for the flu," Murti said. "If you look at the (United) States, almost 150 children across the U.S. died. We really want to make sure everyone is protected throughout the year."
B.C. residents visiting people at health-care or long-term care facilities, are eligible for the free shot, as well.
"We're already starting to see a few cases of the flu, but the flu season doesn't start until late November, early December," she said. "So we like to get people protected now to make sure they've already reacted to the flu and are already protected when the major wave comes through."
Murti says about 4,000 to 8,000 people get the flu every year in Canada.
This year, a new product is also available for people who don't like getting a shot. The flu mist is a nasal spray vaccine free for eligible children aged two to 17 years old, but is also approved for adults up to age 49.
For more information about the flu shot, where to get it and to check for eligibility, visit www.fraserhealth.ca.
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