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Cases of COVID-19, RSV and influenza expected to peak in the coming weeks

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A warning from Ontario’s top doctor ahead of the holiday season – cases of COVID-19, RSV and influenza are circulating and expected to peak in the coming weeks.

“Many people still believe that a flu shot is not necessary every year,” said pharmacist Pascal Niccoli. “The strains change every year. So it’s very important that this is an annual shot. You won’t get immunity from your previous year’s shot.”

Niccoli has seen an uptick in vaccinations at his pharmacy in Waterloo’s Conestoga Mall, especially for the newly-approved RSV shot.

“It’s only approved for 60 [years of age] plus, but we are seeing quite a bit of demand for that vaccine as well,” he said.

Ontario’s top doctor said Monday there are roughly 220 people in hospital with RSV across the province, about 100 with influenza, and 1,700 testing positive for COVID-19.

In the Region of Waterloo, public health’s latest numbers show 45 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 as well as 11 outbreaks in high risk settings.

Dr. Kieran Moor said it has “a significant impact on our hospitals, on our emergency departments and our frontline workers. It can be mitigated if we can try to take those vest efforts to protect each other over the holidays.”

While there are no plans to enact any public health measures, experts say the precautions taken during the pandemic shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Wearing a mask in group settings, such as malls or transit,” said Dr. Zahid Butt, an epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo. “We could practice hand sanitizing, hand washing. We should stay at home when we are sick.”

If you plan on getting immunized, doctors say don’t wait. This week is the best time to get your shot in order to be protected over Christmas.

“It’s very important now,” said Niccoli. “Generally it takes about two weeks for the shots to become effective, fully effective, in our immune systems. Consider getting your flu shot or COVID-19 shot.”

WHERE TO GET A FLU SHOT

The vaccine is free of charge for anyone over six months of age in Ontario. If you do not have an Ontario health card, you can still get the shot, depending on the pharmacy.

Flu shots are available through health care providers, pharmacies and walk-in (or urgent care) clinics.

Parents should know that pharmacies only vaccinate children two-years-old and up.

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW

Anyone wanting a flu shot is urged to call ahead to make sure they are available at their doctor's office or pharmacy.

Vaccines are delivered in batches and locations may be waiting on a new delivery.

Some locations also require appointments.

Many providers also offer the updated COVID-19 vaccine, so people can get both at the same time.

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