Ontario doctors advise getting up to date on vaccinations before fall flu and COVID-19 season

Ontario doctors advise people to stay up-to-date on vaccinations before the fall, when diseases like COVID-19 and influenza are expected to spread amid health-system challenges that one doctor said are likely it will get worse

The doctors spoke at a virtual panel hosted by the Ontario Medical Association for an early discussion of the pandemic and other health care issues in the coming months.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said other countries have seen flu spikes this year and Ontario should prepare for something similar, as well as a likely spike in COVID-19 cases in the fall when people begin to gather more indoors. frequently.

“I think with our … globalization, global travel, everything back on the table, it really means that the flu will be introduced more into Ontario, which emphasizes the need for people to get vaccinated against influenza,” he said.

Flu shots can help prevent serious symptomatic illness and health-care-related strain as the system deals with staffing shortages and other challenges, Chagla noted.

After a summer of long wait times and temporary closures at emergency departments due to staffing shortages, ER physician Dr. Andrew Petrosoniak said he anticipates hospital strain will worsen in the fall.

“I think there’s a 99 percent chance that emergency departments in Ontario will be worse off in the fall than they are now,” he said. Petrosoniak said the expected increase in the spread of respiratory illnesses could have a major impact on an already overburdened hospital system.

“We tend to see an increase in volumes (in the fall),” he said. “Even if it’s a small increase, when a system has been maxed out, any small increase has the risk of overwhelming it.”

Petrosoniak said hospital staff can and will continue to provide care to people in life-threatening situations. But the doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto is concerned that people with obviously less serious health problems could go unnoticed and their conditions worsen as a result.

“I’m sure things will be lost. I think that’s almost a certainty,” Petrosoniak said.

On the subject of immunizations, pediatrician Dr. Sloane Freeman, who also works at St. Michael’s Hospital, added that she is concerned that children are falling behind on COVID-19 vaccines and other routine shots that they missed during the pandemic. Ontario children were out of school for a particularly long time compared to other provinces and, as a result, did not receive many routine immunizations.

That’s of particular concern as countries around the world are finding vaccine-preventable diseases like the virus that causes polio, he said.

Polio was found in New York City sewage, and a positive case was detected last month. Canada has said it intends to start testing sewage for the virus soon.

“We really need to focus on kids keeping up and getting these routine vaccinations that we otherwise took for granted before,” Freeman said, adding that doctors want kids to get flu shots, too.

As for COVID-19 vaccines, Freeman said children “are not covered at the rate that we need and that we expect,” noting that children living in poverty are the furthest behind on their vaccines. against the virus.

“We really need to focus on ramping this up for kids, especially as we move into fall, we think about back to school, being indoors,” she said. “As COVID rates rise, we really want our children to be protected.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 17, 2022.

Leave a Comment