Chief Medical Health Officer urges flu shots as cases rise

The province’s Chief Medical Health Officer is calling for more people to get this year’s flu shot.

As reported in the provincial Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program report of November 10, influenza cases have increased in Saskatchewan, with 61 per cent of those in children and youth up to 19 years.

As of November 10, 185,531 doses of influenza vaccine have been administered in Saskatchewan, representing approximately 15 per cent of the population.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said all residents should get up-to-date with available vaccinations.

“In Saskatchewan, we are fortunate to have safe and effective vaccines for influenza and COVID-19. However, COVID-19 is not the flu, and COVID-19 vaccines will not protect you from influenza. The best way to protect yourself and your family against influenza is to get the annual flu shot.”

All Saskatchewan residents six months of age and older are eligible to receive their flu shots at participating pharmacies, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) clinics and some physician and nurse practitioner offices.

He said the best way to protect yourself against influenza is to receive a shot and practice common sense measures which include staying home while sick, washing your hands frequently, and wearing a mask when you feel it’s appropriate.

“Every little bit helps,” he stated. “The important message is if you haven’t gotten around to get your flu shot, go get it in the next week or two.”

Shahab said that the flu returning this year is putting added pressure on acute care services, which are still dealing with COVID.

“There will be an increase in pressure,” he said. “We might not be at the same level as where Ontario is, but I think with an early start to the flu season, we expect to see the usual pressures of influenza, but we have to remember that it is on top of a plateau pressure of COVID that’s not going away.”

Shahab added that the COVID pressures aren’t going up but are not going away either.

He noted that increased pressures on acute care services and a rise in respiratory illnesses were expected.

“People have about four to six coughs or colds a year. Many of us had no coughs or colds for two years, and then many of us had COVID.” Shahab said. “Now, all of us should expect two to four coughs and colds a year.”

His comments come after Health Canada declared a ‘flu epidemic’ after the test positivity rate nearly doubled in one week.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in its FluWatch report that the rate jumped to 11.7 per cent the week of Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, compared to 6.3 per cent the previous week.

The agency declared an epidemic, which happens most years after the threshold of a five per cent positivity rate is surpassed. However, it said influenza levels are higher than would have been expected when compared to pre-pandemic years.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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