‘It isn’t too late’: Albertans urged to get flu shots as Christmas draws near

‘It isn’t too late’: Albertans urged to get flu shots as Christmas draws near

With the holidays fast approaching amid a particularly bad flu season, Albertans are being urged to roll up their sleeves for their flu vaccine.

According to the province, 45 Albertans have already died from the flu this season and 1,413 have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed flu.

This fall’s death toll is just below the totals for several full seasons before the pandemic (more moderate flu seasons) and is already higher than the total recorded during the 2019-20 flu season.

“Unfortunately, it’s not really surprising,” said Craig Jenne, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary.

“We are significantly behind in vaccine uptake in the province, which means our overall level of protection in the community is significantly lower and as a result we are seeing a lot of sick individuals.”

Alberta health statistics show that 25.2 percent of Alberta residents received their free flu shot, which is lower than pre-pandemic immunization rates.

And Jenne said that while the case numbers are showing some early signs of a plateau, that could change slightly as people gather for the holiday season.

“I don’t think it’s safe to say we’re out of the woods,” he said.

“With a lot of virus in the community, low immunity in people and social gatherings [over Christmas]I am concerned that we may see a further increase in flu cases in the coming weeks to months.

dr Jia Hu, a Calgary-based public health doctor, said now is the time to get the flu shot if you haven’t already.

“It’s not too late yet. We’re still in a very, very high level of activity in the flu season,” he said.

Calgary-based public health physician Dr. Jia Hu, wants Albertans to know it’s not too late to get their free flu shots (ErinCollins/CBC)

“It’s really important that people get vaccinated. We usually say it takes two weeks for the vaccine to work, but even if you get vaccinated now it will give you some protection by Christmas.”

During a news conference this week, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam called the increase in influenza hospitalizations across the country “worrying,” particularly the high rates among children.

Nearly 29 percent of Alberta’s flu hospitalizations have been in children and adolescents. Two children have died.

“Laboratory data suggests that this year’s influenza vaccine matches well with circulating strains and is therefore likely to help protect against severe influenza illness,” Tam said.

“As we fast approach the holidays, now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”

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