The 2010 flu shot became available to the public last week, with a few changes in place announced by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
For one, the program considers B.C. First Nations to be a priority group this year, alongside seniors, pregnant mothers, children over two and health care professionals.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Health Canada also recommend anyone over 50 get the shot this year, lowering the recommended age from 65. There are several reasons for lowering the age, including the expected third wave of the H1N1 "swine" flu this winter and a new study of B.C. residents that shows the 50 to 79 age group had fewer H1N1 antibodies than any age group after last year's global pandemic. That runs contrary to last year's findings, where seniors were less likely to get the disease as a result of being exposed decades ago during the last global pandemic.
As well, it's estimated that only about a third of Canadians actually got the flu shot last year, with a limited supply of vaccine at the start and the urgency ebbing once the first wave passed through. The priority last year was for school age children that appeared to be falling seriously ill at a higher rate than the rest of the population. As a result, fewer older British Columbians were vaccinated.
According to Vancouver Coastal Health, which is already holding free flu shot clinics in the Sea to Sky corridor for priority groups, this year's flu shot contains the H1N1 vaccine, as well as another strain of flu that surfaced in Australia during their winter. There are ample supplies of vaccine available this year for everyone to get a shot. Officials are expecting an average flu season.
The next Vancouver Coastal Health flu clinic in Whistler is on Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Whistler Health Care Centre. Another clinic is scheduled for Nov. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
In Pemberton, there are clinics at the Pemberton Health Care Centre from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 3 and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 5. There will be another clinic at the Pemberton Lions Villa from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 27.
There are almost a dozen clinics in Squamish, starting Oct. 27. For a full list of dates, times and locations, visit www.health.gov.bc.ca/flu/#anchor.
Free shots are available for people 65 and older, residents of nursing homes, children and adults with chronic health issues and their care workers, healthy children aged six to 23 months, caregivers to infants aged six to 23 months, pregnant women in their third trimester during the flu season, health care and other care providers, first responders and corrections officers, aboriginal people, and people who are morbidly obese.