Ontario Launches Flu Shot Campaign During Fourth Wave of COVID-19

The Ford government is kicking off Ontario’s flu vaccine campaign and says shots will be available to all residents beginning in early November.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the rollout will be “one of the largest flu immunization campaigns in the province’s history.”

“Our government is prepared for flu season and is launching an even larger flu shot program this year to keep Ontarians healthy as we continue to respond to COVID-19,” said Ms. Elliott.

“It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time, so if you’re receiving your flu shot and still have yet to receive a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, now is the time.”

The initial supply of flu shots was being prioritized for long-term care homes and hospitals in September. The province says the shots are now available for seniors and other at-risk individuals.

In November, the shot will become available for all residents. People will be able to get their vaccines through family physicians, pharmacies and public health units. The province says pharmacies will receive approximately 40 percent of the doses.

The Ford government is investing over $89 million to secure more than 7.6 million flu vaccine doses this year – this includes 1.8 million doses that will be prioritized for seniors. Last year, the province secured approximately 6.2 million total doses.

Experts have warned the flu season could be much worse in 2022 as last year, there were still many COVID-19 health orders in place.

During the 2020-2021 flu season, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported just 79 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza. The previous year, there were over 54,000.

Health officials say both shots are necessary to help prevent co-infection of COVID-19 and influenza.

Infectious Disease Expert, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, says this winter will be different.

“More people are congregating together in indoor venues, that’s where flu is transmitted, and international and domestic travel are scaling up,” he said Tuesday.

Dr. Bogoch says the biggest concern about a more active flu season is the impact it could have on our health care system, pointing to the strain pre-COVID winters had on the hospitals.

“Every December and January we always saw headlines about healthcare capacity, hallway medicine and a lot of that is driven by a predictable influx of patients.”

Dr. Bogoch says the flu is a nasty infection and kills about 3,500 Canadians every year and about half a million people worldwide.

While it’s hard to predict how bad the flu season will be this time around, high demand for the shot, continued masking requirements and overall better hygiene will help control the spread.

There is now 87.5 percent of Ontarians 12, and older that have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83.2 percent have received both doses.

All Ontarians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can download their enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificates as of this week.

The provincial government has said the documents, including a scannable QR code, will allow faster entry into settings requiring proof of vaccination.

The launch of the new app comes amidst speculation that Ontario will soon announce a plan for moving beyond the province’s current reopening framework, including ending capacity limits in venues such as restaurants and gyms where proof of vaccination is required.

The City of Toronto is also launching its annual flu shot campaign this week.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) says they will initially focus on getting the flu vaccine to individuals at increased risk of serious illness.

In early November, the shot will start to be rolled out to the general public through mass immunization clinics and local pharmacies and family physicians.

“We are working to make sure Toronto residents have access to the flu vaccine again this year,” says Mayor John Tory in a statement. “I encourage people to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to help protect themselves against influenza.”

Residents will be able to book an appointment at one of the five clinics beginning on Oct. 27. No walk-in appointments will be accepted.

People will also be able to get their vaccines through pharmacies in family physicians in early November.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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