As the city gears up for its annual flu shot campaign this week, public health officials have the following message for Hamiltonians: It’s time to roll up your sleeves. 

Mila Ivanova, a medical resident with the city’s public health department, says the flu season hasn’t hit yet, meaning “it’s a good time to get a flu shot.” 

That’s because it generally takes about two weeks for recipients’ immune systems to build up resistance against influenza, she says. 

'Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways...We can’t predict timing or severity or even the length of it” —Mila Ivanova, Hamilton Public Health

In addition, public health officials advise against procrastinating because it’s tough to forecast when the winter flu season will strike.

“Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways,” says Ivanova.

Even though the flu season typically occurs between November and April, “we can’t predict timing or severity or even the length of it,” she says. 

Last winter’s flu cycle — which the city has said was one of the worst in years — struck in the first half of November and peaked in early January.

"Usually we see more cases during January and February, but now we’re seeing it in November and December," said Hamidah Meghani, Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health, told CBC Hamilton in mid-December. 

Though Ivanova says it’s best not to wait for the shot, one can still get vaccinated after the debut of the flu season. 

“Even if you don’t get the shot early, you can still get it in the winter.”

Value of vaccination — and other prevention tips

“Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza,” stresses Ivanova. 

She recommends almost everyone get the flu shot, particularly seniors and people with chronic medical conditions. 

Ivanova also urged flu shots for children and pregnant women — groups that are both more susceptible to catching the bug and more likely to develop serious complications if they get ill.

“Even if you’re healthy, you want to get the flu shot to protect your loved ones.”

There are other measures one can take to prevent the spread of the flu.

“Everyday preventative measures include staying away from sick people and washing your hands,” Ivanova said.

“If you are sick, stay home form work or school in order to prevent the spread of disease to others.”

Starting on Monday, the city is hosting free community flu shot clinics across Hamilton. Residents six months and older can also get vaccinated at doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics. 

In addition, 90 pharmacies in Hamilton — up from around 30 in 2012 — will be offering free shots to residents five and up. (The city recommends calling in advance.) 

For a list of pharmacies offering the flu shot, go to Hamilton.ca/flu. 

Here's a schedule for the city's upcoming community flu shot clinics:

  • Oct. 21 — Dundas Lions Memorial Community Centre gym (10 Market St. S, Dundas), 2 to 6 p.m. 
  • Oct. 22 — Bennetto Recreation Centre gym (450 Hughson St. N),  2 to 6 p.m. 
  • Oct. 23 — St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School cafeteria (1045 Upper Paradise Rd.) 4 to 8 p.m. 
  • Oct. 30 — Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School cafeteria (100 Panabaker Dr,
    Ancaster) 3 to 7 p.m. 
  • Oct. 31 — Jackson Square (Between Hamilton Farmers' Market and Denninger's),12 to 4 p.m. 
  • Nov. 1 — Valley Park Arena and Recreation Centre gym (970 Paramount Dr., Stoney Creek), 3 to 7 p.m. 
  • Nov. 4 — Waterdown District Secondary School cafeteria (215 Parkside Dr., Waterdown) 4 to 8 p.m.
  • Nov. 5 — Sackville Hill Senior Centre gym (780 Upper Wentworth St.), 2 to 6 p.m. 
  • Nov. 6 — Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School cafeteria (127 Gray Rd., Stoney Creek), 3 to 7 p.m. ​
  • Nov. 12 — Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club gym, (45 Ellis Ave.), 2 to 6 p.m. 
  • Nov. 13 — Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum hangar (9280 Airport Rd., Mount Hope), 2 to 6 p.m. 
  • Nov. 14 — St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School cafeteria (200 Whitney Ave.), 3 to 7 p.m. ​