Flu shot bookings open in Alberta, appointments start on Monday
Alberta health officials are encouraging Albertans to get their flu shot as soon as they can.
The guidance is meant to prevent further stress on Alberta's already busy hospitals.
Albertans can now book their free flu shots online.
Appointments can be made for as early as Monday at participating pharmacies and Alberta Health Services' public health clinics.
“Getting immunized has never been more important as Alberta hospitals are at capacity, strained to provide care for very sick people, including those with COVID-19," Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said in a news release.
"We must do all that we can to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbours from COVID-19 as well as the flu. Getting immunized will help stop the spread of influenza, reduce flu-related visits to the emergency ward and help our health system provide care to those in need.”
On Thursday, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said while influenza symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19, so too are the preventative measures.
“Good hygiene, such as washing hands, physical distancing, staying home when sick, and wearing masks are effective in preventing the spread of both illnesses," said Dr. Hinshaw.
According to Alberta Health Services president Dr. Verna Yiu, studies show that it's safe to receive a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.
"The good news is that COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same time, or at any time, either before or after other vaccines, including influenza," said Dr. Yiu.
"Since the COVID-19 vaccines have been available, there's been substantial data that has been now collected regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. At this time there are no specific safety concerns with administering both vaccines at the same time."
Albertans aged six months or older are eligible to receive a flu shot.
“More than 19 months into the pandemic response, we encourage Albertans to roll up their sleeves again this year and get immunized against influenza," said Dr. Yiu.
"By keeping the number of influenza cases low, we can help protect at-risk Albertans and reduce the pressure on our health-care system. Now more than ever before we need to work together to protect each other and our health-care system.”
Albertans over the age of 65 are eligible to receive a high-dose flu vaccine this season.
According to AHS, both formulations will provide protection against the four common strains of influenza.
Flu shots for people in households with children under five years old will all be booked at an AHS public health clinic.
People in households where everyone is over the age of five will be booked at participating pharmacies.
'WE'RE LIKELY TO SEE INFLUENZA THIS YEAR'
A record 1.6 million flu shots were administered last season, the most in more than a decade.
This season, the province has reported three influenza cases so far after no confirmed cases were reported over the 2020-21 flu season.
According to AHS lead medical officer of health for communicable disease control Dr. Kristin Klein, all three of those cases were related to travel.
"It's some indication that we're likely to see influenza this year," she told reporters on Friday.
"Definitely with more people traveling and some changes in the public health restrictions I would anticipate we're going to see some cases of influenza this year and it's too early to tell yet what that will look like compared to normal seasons."
According to the province, Alberta had 8,470 confirmed influenza cases in 2019-2020, and 41 deaths related to the virus.
Dr. Klein said one indicator used by Alberta health officials to gauge the upcoming influenza season is what southern countries saw over their winter months.
"Globally, influenza activity remains at lower levels than expected for this time of year," she said. "Australia, whose influenza season happens over our summer months, continues to see lower levels of influenza and hospitalizations due to influenza."
AHS also looks at what influenza strains Australia sees over its flu season to determine what vaccine strains should be administered in Alberta.
The Alberta government has ordered 2.1 million doses of influenza vaccine for the upcoming flu season.