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Roll up those sleeves

Flu vaccine finally ready

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This year’s flu vaccine has arrived in Whistler – a little later than expected but welcome none the less.

Over the last several months many health professionals were concerned that the vaccine may not be available for those patients not considered high risk.

"Until recently the pharmacies didn’t know if any vaccine would be available to us (for patients not considered high-risk)," said Dr. Janice Carr, a partner in Town Plaza Medical Clinic.

"We don’t know why this happened. This was really the first year that we were left really not knowing whether vaccine would be available privately."

Now, however, local clinics have not only managed to get doses from pharmaceutical companies, the local drug stores are also honouring orders placed earlier.

"It’s good news,"said Carr. "We’ve got lots."

People interested in getting the flu shot in the Sea to Sky corridor can drop into their local doctor’s office and get jabbed. It will cost up to $25.

Patients should check with their doctors about the type of vaccine on offer as Influvac, a Solvay Pharmaceutical company product, has not been approved for those under 18 years of age. Two other types of vaccine are available for kids. They are Fluviral and Vaxigrip. Check out www.phac-aspc.gc.ca to find a travel clinic where you can get those vaccinations.

The Travel Medicine and Vaccination Centre will be coming to Whistler and offering for-pay shots of Vaxigrip in the next week or so at a public clinic. You can find out more at www.tmvc.com or call 1-888-288-8682.

Carr believes getting the vaccine is a good investment.

"The problem with the flu is that it is not only a nasty virus and people are sick for seven to 10 days, but after you recover from it your immunity is so down that you end up picking up every little cold that runs around here," she said.

And with travellers from all over the world coming to the resort carrying an assortment of viral organisms Whistlerites are well advised to get a vaccine.

Thousands more people are getting flu shots these days as concerns about a flu pandemic continue to hog media headlines.

In 1997 Whistler saw a flu epidemic of its own. Since then said Carr many, many more people are getting vaccines.

"In winter of 1997 hardly any (not-at-risk) patients were immunized… and we saw a lot of flu that winter," she said. "Since that winter there have been more people having flu shots and more clinics coming up and we see way less flu."

The flu vaccine does not protect against the H5N1 virus that some health officials fear may cause a global flu pandemic.

Flu strains covered in this year’s vaccine are B-type New York, A-type Caledonia and B-type4 Jiangsu. The choice of strains was made last February by national and international experts.

The flu shot is effective for six months to a year in a healthy individual, or about four to six months for people with more frail immune systems. That’s why vaccinations are targeted at this time of the year.

Each year about 1,400 people in B.C. will die from influenza and pneumonia, and in a "bad" year 25 per cent of the population will be affected or come down with symptoms which can include fever, headache, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat and cough.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has distributed around 321,000 doses of influenza vaccine to doctors and public health units throughout the region. B.C. ordered close to 1.3 million doses.

The vaccine is 70—90 per cent effective in preventing infection in healthy adults.

Those at risk can get the shot for free. They include: seniors; residents of nursing homes; healthy infants between six and 23 months; households, contacts and childcare workers of infants aged 0 to 23 months; adults and children with chronic illness and their informal caregivers; pregnant women in their third trimester; healthcare and home support workers; emergency responders.

Influenza, a highly contagious respiratory illness can be unwittingly transmitted by infected people for nearly 48 hours before they develop symptoms themselves.

For more information about vaccination clinics in the community for those at risk go to www.vch.ca/public/communicable/fluclinics.htm#fluclinics , call the health information line at 1—886-884-0888 or call Coast Garibaldi Health at 604 932 3202.

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