Delta family doctors are urging residents to get their influenza shots and not let their guard down from a deluge of COVID-19 information.
For the second straight year, the Delta Division of Family Practice will be hosting a mass community flu shot clinic at the Harris Barn in Ladner, starting on Oct. 19.
Last year’s event, run by volunteer doctors, nurses and pharmacists, went exceptionally well with bookings solid on each of the days and more than 3,000 residents vaccinated. Throw in the COVID-19 safety practices of mask wearing, hand-washing and social distancing, and it was one of the tamest flu seasons on record, with just 18 cases recorded province-wide.
However, doctors warn this year could be vastly different as the pandemic restrictions ease.
“Last year was an unusually low year for influenza in the community. The big part of that was everybody was at home, wearing masks, PPE and there was less of an opportunity for transmissions,” explained Dr. Adriana Wong. “This year, people are starting to travel and getting a little more complacent where they think they don’t have to worry about the flu.
“Every year there are a number of cases of influenza and it can be a very serious disease. When you don’t see it for a whole year you kind of forget that. Everybody’s mind is on COVID-19.”
Doctors are also having to dispel the myth that being double-vaccinated for COVID-19 can also provide protection from other diseases.
“Especially with people (already getting) poked and prodded. Now there is talk about a booster or a third dose (of a COVID-19 vaccine). People are getting a little bit fatigued hearing about immunization, so I do find I have to educate individuals and let them know that COVID is different from influenza. It is two different illnesses that they can potentially contact,” said Dr. Olga Makarenko.
“It’s important to stress we get there is fatigue around here. All this information about vaccinations. We sympathize with people. We know it’s a lot of information that gets thrown their way. We do want to encourage that we are family physicians and we do want what is best for our community. Getting the flu vaccine is one of the things they can do to protect themselves, protect their loved ones and protect the vulnerable population, the elderly and pregnant women. It’s something that has been studied for many years and something that is considered safe.”
Both physicians agreed hospitals and emergency rooms are already being pushed to near capacity thanks to the fourth wave of COVID. Getting a flu shot is supporting the healthcare system while providing a peace of mind.
“The other thing to remember is some of the symptoms can look pretty similar between COVID and influenza,” Wong added. “At least you know if you had your COVID vaccines you can get similar symptoms where if you have also had your influenza vaccine it will hopefully eliminate chances to get either disease.”
Additional dates for the Harris Barn flu clinics are Oct. 21, Oct. 28 and Oct. 30. Each one will run from noon to 6 p.m.
Book your appointment at: southdeltafluclinics.ca or call 604-943-5591.