Manitoba nearly doubles order of high-dose flu vaccine to meet expected fall demand

The provincial government intends to boost access to a high-dose flu vaccine in anticipation of a rise in demand come fall, when influenza season emerges and as COVID-19 is likely to still be circulating in the community.

Concerns about coming flu season compounded by likelihood COVID-19 will still be a problem

The province is ordering 21,500 doses of the high-dose flu vaccine, up from 11,500 last flu season. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The provincial government intends to boost access to a high-dose flu vaccine in anticipation of a rise in demand when influenza season emerges and as coronavirus is likely to still be circulating in the community.

The rise in flu cases every fall always presents a public health challenge. Concerns are heightened this year due to the competing concerns presented by COVID-19, said Manitoba's chief public health officer.

"Manitobans need to plan for a challenging flu season as COVID-19, influenza and colds will be occurring at the same time this fall," Dr. Brent Roussin said in a statement Tuesday.

The Manitoba government has increased its order of the high-dose flu vaccine to 21,500 doses, up from 11,500 last year.

The vaccine is typically aimed at people 65 and over, including those in long-term care facilities and those with compromised immune systems or vulnerable health conditions.

The province is expanding the eligibility criteria this year to ensure more seniors have access to the high-dose vaccine, the province said in a news release.

"By doubling our order of high-dose influenza vaccine and making it available to more people at high risk of contracting the flu, we are able to protect them," Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in a statement.

Residents in supportive and assisted living housing will be able to get it, as will people who are newly incarcerated or transferred from out-of-province jails or prisons.

So will recipients of home-care services on wait lists for long-term care homes, those on First Nations or in remote communities, and those living north of the 53rd parallel.

Manitoba was the first to offer the high-dose vaccine in 2017 and other provinces followed suit.

More Manitobans — more than 26 per cent — were vaccinated against the flu in 2019-20 than in any previous year, provincial officials said, and that's expected to climb this fall.

Twenty-nine people died from the flu last flu season.

Amid soaring COVID-19 cases in western and southern parts of the province stemming from clusters in each area, Roussin urged Manitobans to take additional precautions against the coming flu season.

"Getting the flu vaccine or the high-dose influenza vaccine is an important step that will help keep you and those around you healthy this season," he said.

"Staying home when you are sick, practising good hand hygiene and covering your cough also helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others."