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Flu vaccine helps protect our community

Why public health officials say it’s crucial to get vaccinated this year.

Photograph of hands placing an adhesive bandage on a woman's arm.
The flu vaccine could help prevent a strain on medical resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now is the time of year public health authorities start encouraging people to roll up their sleeves for their annual flu vaccine. But this year there is an added sense of urgency to the vaccination campaign, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each year seasonal influenza leads to an increase in hospital admissions and mortality in persons at risk for severe disease. The best way to prevent that is the flu vaccine, which last year was almost 70 per cent effective in preventing complications caused by influenza,” says Dr. Gerald Evans, Chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s. “Given the added problem of the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage everyone, young and old, to get their flu shot this year. It remains uncertain if co-infection with both COVID-19 and influenza may cause even more severe disease.”

Public health officials are also advising that the flu vaccine can prevent undue strain on medical resources.

“Getting your flu shot helps to prevent hospitalizations and a large impact on the health care system. Now more than ever we need every spare bed to protect individuals that may need hospitalization due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, in a public statement.

How to get the flu vaccine

Anyone with Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage can receive the vaccine from their primary care provider or a local pharmacy, including Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, and Drugsmart locations in Kingston. Pharmacies are advising people to call in advance to ensure that the vaccine is available.

Anyone over the age of five can receive the flu vaccine at a local pharmacy, even if they do not have OHIP coverage. Individuals are advised to contact pharmacies in advance to confirm that they are giving the vaccine to those without OHIP coverage, as some independent pharmacies may be reserving their supply for those with OHIP coverage.

Those who do not have OHIP coverage can also get assistance from KFL&A Public Health, who is running flu clinics on select days beginning in late October. These clinics provide flu shots by appointment only, which can be made on the KFL&A Public Health website.

Information for students

For students, the process of getting the flu vaccine is largely the same as for the general population, and they should seek to get it through primary care providers and pharmacies when possible.

In addition, Queen’s students can contact Student Wellness Services (SWS). SWS has a limited supply of the flu vaccine and they are prioritizing students who do not have OHIP coverage and students with high-risk predispositions, such as chronic illness and asthma.

Students in these priority groups should visit the SWS website for more information.

Students who are currently studying outside of Kingston should look to their local public health offices for information about where they can obtain the flu vaccine in their area.

Learn more about influenza and the flu vaccine on the KFLA&A Public Health website.