November 2018: Flu Shot a Good Match!

The Rural Pharmacist: Flu Shot a Good Match

-Henry Tempelman, Pharmacist & Owner

Flu shots are now available to the public at your local Rosslyn and Kakabeka Falls IDA Pharmacy! No appointment needed!

Last year’s flu vaccine was a bit of a disappointment as it was a poor match for the infecting strains. Last year’s vaccine was only 17% effective in preventing respiratory illness from H3N2 (the dominant A strain of influenza) and 55% effective in preventing respiratory illness from the dominant B strain, according to Canadian Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network.

Health officials are optimistic that this year the vaccine is a good match. This information is based on virus research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine what strains of the flu will be prevalent in the coming flu season. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has revised the 2018-19 vaccine to match the circulating viruses; this year’s vaccine contains two A strains of H1N1 and H3N2 and two strains of the B/Victoria and B/Yamagata.

Furthermore, this flu season is expected to be milder than last year. Canadian 2017-18 stats confirmed over 64,000 lab-confirmed cases, 302 deaths directly from influenza, including 9 children. These stats are likely underreported – not every flu case is confirmed by a lab and the flu can be a contributing factor to deaths when other health conditions are present.  A closer estimation is the flu causes approximately 12,000 hospitalizations each year and 3500 deaths in a normal flu season.

How do we predict the severity of a flu season? Typically, flu season trends in Australia give health experts a good idea of what to expect in Canada.  Australia’s flu season is winding down as ours ramps up in Canada. Australia has had low to moderate flu activity (proportion of patients admitted to hospital/deaths from flu) and low flu severity (proportion of people with flu taking time off work/packing hospital waiting rooms).    

Sounds great! A mild flu season! Why bother with the flu shot then? As mentioned above, a normal flu season causes approximately 12,000 hospitalizations and 3500 deaths. Even if you’re not concerned about getting sick, it is recommended to get the vaccine to protect the more vulnerable people around you. Consider the aging population, young children, adults with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, Indigenous people as high risk. Also, remember that our hospital and health care system in Thunder Bay is already crowded and overloaded – preventative measures to reduce the impact of influenza related illness cannot be overstated.

Get your flu shot! The sooner the better as it takes approximately 2 weeks for your body to establish an immune response to protect yourself from the flu.

Flu shots are more accessible than ever now that you can get it during all opening hours of participating pharmacies. The more people that are vaccinated, the better “Herd Immunity” is in protecting everyone. “Herd Immunity” occurs when a significant portion of the population are vaccinated from a virus/disease and protect those members of the population who are not vaccinated or who have not developed immunity.

Between Rosslyn Pharmacy and Kakabeka Pharmacy, our pharmacists administered nearly 100 flu shots in the first few days that flu shots were available. Off to a good start! Visit us and get yours today! Anytime during open hours J