Get you flu shot – there is really no good excuse not to. That not too subtle message was delivered emphatically on Wednesday by Glen Abernethy, the territory’s health and social services minister, and the NWT’s Chief Public Health officer Dr. Andre Corriveau. Both attended a flu shot clinic held at Northern United Place and got their shots
The flu vaccine is provided every fall by the GNWT free of charge across the territory. It helps protect Northerners against influenza which is most common during the winter months.
Abernethy said that everyone who is able to should get a flu shot but added there is an even stronger impetus for those who are considered high-risk to get the flu.
“We target everyone in the NWT. But we really want to see kids come in who are prone to illness. We really want to see seniors come in and people who are working with kids and seniors,” Abernethy said. “We also want to see as many people as possible come in and get the flu shot to help avoid complications from flu over the season.”
The flu can also be a very serious illness for people with a compromised immune system or chronic diseases. Abernethy added that getting the flu shot not only helps protect yourself but others around you as well.
Corriveau said that once an infant turns six-months-old – they are old enough for a flu shot.
“We also encourage pregnant women to get their shot because the vaccine transfers antibodies to the baby before they are born. If they are born during the flu season we can’t immunize them but if the mother has received her flu shot then the baby will have some protection,” Corriveau said. “If you live with an elderly person at your house or someone with a chronic health condition – not bringing flu home is very important. Getting a flu shot is the best way to avoid that.”
Corriveau said he would like to see the percentage of NWT residents getting their shot rise from the current 20 per cent. The good news, according to Corriveau, is that number rises to more than 60 per cent for the elderly. He added that some of the communities have much higher rates of immunization that does Yellowknife.
Abernethy said that part of the reason for that is people in the communities encourage each other to get the shot, knowing that the flu can spread quickly through smaller hamlets.
Corriveau said that it’s a myth that you can get the flu from the flu shot. He added however that getting the shot is not a full-proof guarantee that you won’t get the flu – but it does dramatically decrease your chances.
“The vaccine takes about ten days to kick in. So if you get your vaccine today but you are exposed tomorrow to the influenza virus you are probably still going to get it,” Corriveau said. He added that is why it is a good idea to get the shot now before the flu season kicks in – usually close to the New Year.
The most common way to contract the flu is by exposure to someone who already has it. For that reason, Corriveau recommends avoiding people who have the flu, staying home from work or school if you have it and wash your hands often especially after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.
The flu shot schedule in Yellowknife this fall and across the territory can be found on the Dept. of Health and Social Services website at hss.gov.nt.ca.