Flu shot more important during pandemic, health officials say
KITCHENER -- The provincial government has launched a multi-million dollar campaign to encourage people to get the flu shot this year.
With flu season approaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals are worried about a possible double whammy of infections, and symptoms.
"Nausea, fever, body aches, cough, runny nose, some stuffy nose, all of these kinds of symptoms can overlap with COVID-19," pharmacist Patty Vamvakitis said.
The potential overlap is why experts are urging people not to be complacent and get the flu shot this year.
"If people are on the fence of getting the flu shot, this is really the year to get it," infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said.
Flu shots could help relieve pressure on the health care system during the pandemic.
"Every year we do have thousands of Canadians that go to the hospital because of the flu, especially people with underlying medical conditions," Vamvakitis said. "It's extremely important that we don't overwhelm that system."
A recent survey by Pharmasave showed 86 per cent of Ontario residents plan to get the flu shot this year, an increase of 10 per cent over last year.
The province said it purchased 5.1 million doses this year with a goal of vaccinating as many people as possible. The first batch of the vaccine is expected to arrive in the Ontario next week.
Kristy Wright, manager of infectious disease with the Region of Waterloo, said the first shipment will be used for high-risk individuals like children under the age of five, people over 65, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.
The province has yet to announce an official launch date for the Universal Influenza Immunization Program, but Wright said there aren't concerns about delays or shortages.
"The vaccine will be available through local health care providers and walk-in clinics," a statement from Wright said in part.
More than 150 pharmacies will be offering the vaccine to people over the age of five this year in Waterloo Region.