Vancouver Coastal Health is predicting a "typical" flu season for the province of British Columbia, and recommending that people — especially members of vulnerable groups — get vaccinated early to have full immunity when flu strains peak in late December and through January.
"We just want to make sure everyone who is eligible (for the free vaccine) comes out and avails themselves to the vaccine and protects themselves and their loved ones from illness," said Dr. Paul Martiquet, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.
The vaccine is formulated based on the dominant flu viruses reported in the southern hemisphere, including Australia and New Zealand, and will cover the H1N1 "swine" flu, which made headlines a few years ago, as well as three strains of the more common H3N2 flu virus. "That should cover the majority of circulating strains this winter," said Dr. Martiquet.
"I think we've got a safe, effective vaccine this year and that people should take advantage. It does take two weeks after the vaccine for your immunity to build up, so the release is designed to correspond with the peak of the flu season towards the end of December and in January. We'd encourage people to get the vaccine early so they're at full immunity when we get hit with the strains that are circulating, with immunity that should last into the spring."
As well as flu shots, Dr. Martiquet said that VCH is encouraging Whistler employers to provide shots for mumps for young and out-of-country employees after the virus circulated in the community last winter. As well as providing booster shots and vaccination clinics, they also posted warnings about the disease and how it can spread through saliva.
Whooping cough — also called pertussis — continues to be a concern in the corridor as well, with the most recent case reported in Pemberton on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Information is going out to parents in Pemberton and Whistler, asking them to ensure that their children have up-to-date vaccinations.
On Monday, Oct. 22, the BC Flu Clinic program began to provide seasonal vaccines at private and public clinics around Whistler, including free shots for vulnerable individuals — a list that includes seniors, people with chronic illnesses (especially heart and lung conditions), aboriginal people, people with compromised immune systems, emergency responders, children aged six months to five years, caregivers of children from birth to five years olds, pregnant women in their third trimester during flu season, residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities, owners and operators of poultry farms, and health professionals.
Get your flu shot here, drop-ins welcome:
• Rexall Drug Store in Whistler Marketplace from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Shots are available from Oct. 22 to Apr. 30.
• Rexall Pharmacy in Village Square from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
• Shoppers Drug Mart on Blackcomb Way (opposite movie theatre) from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Shots are available from Oct. 22 to Apr. 30. Walk-ins are welcome.
• Whistler Health Care Centre on Lorimer Road. One-day flu clinic on Nov. 1, from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
There is also a clinic today (Thursday, Oct. 25) at the Spring Creek Seniors Centre from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., located at 1519 Spring Creek Drive.
More clinics may be added and will be publicized at www.health.gov.bc.ca.