While Quebec is facing a second wave of COVID-19, pharmacists invite people at risk of complications and those around them to be vaccinate against influenza to reduce the pressure on health establishments.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GET THE FLU VACCINATION?
The flu is one of the top ten causes of death in the country. Each year, more than 3,500 Canadians die from it and 12,000 are hospitalized. Vaccination protects us and helps protect vulnerable people. Also, getting the flu could make you more vulnerable to other infections.
DOES THE INFLUENZA VACCINE PROTECT AGAINST COVID-19?
The flu vaccine does not provide protection against coronaviruses. They are separate infections. However, it is possible to contract the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. COVID-19 has also changed the perception of Quebecers towards the flu vaccine. While 27% of Quebecers say they were vaccinated last year, 38% would be willing to receive the vaccine this year, according to a study conducted by Environics for Pharmaprix.
IS THE VACCINE REALLY EFFECTIVE?
The effectiveness of the influenza vaccine varies from season to season and depends on the level of correspondence between the viruses included in the vaccine and those circulating in the population. The effectiveness also depends on your age and the risk group, as well as the type of vaccine. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the vaccine prevents influenza in about 40% to 60% of healthy people.
WHO SHOULD BE VACCINATED?
People belonging to the following groups are eligible for free vaccination:
- children from 6 months to 17 years old with certain chronic diseases (heart or lung problems, diabetes, liver, kidney or blood disease, cancer, immune deficiency);
- adults, including pregnant women, regardless of the stage of their pregnancy, with certain chronic diseases;
- pregnant women during the 2e and 3e trimesters of their pregnancy;
- people aged 75 and over;
- relatives living with a child under 6 months or a person at high risk.
Children 6 to 23 months and healthy adults 60 to 74 are no longer considered at risk, but they may be vaccinate for free again this year.
HOW TO DISTINGUISH INFLUENZA AND COVID-19?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, pain, fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath) can be similar to those of the flu. However, there is one difference: the flu usually manifests itself with fatigue, fever, a dry cough, but is rarely accompanied by shortness of breath.
WHEN AND WHERE CAN I GET VACCINATED?
The public flu vaccination campaign begins in Quebec on the 1ster November. Most owner pharmacists affiliated with Pharmaprix offer a vaccination service by appointment to avoid queues and crowds. Patients will only need to complete the consent and assessment forms with their phone, tablet or computer to avoid paper handling, and will need to answer questions to assess their risk of exposure to COVID-19 or the presence of symptoms before being vaccinated. Pharmacists will need to wear personal protective equipment, while patients will need to wear a mask.