Manitoba

Get the shot as Manitoba won't be spared a flu season again, top doctor says

The usual flu season effectively skipped Manitoba last winter as the pandemic kept people — and any potential viruses — apart. 

Manitoba must plan for a 'significant respiratory virus season,' Dr. Brent Roussin warns

Health Minister Audrey Gordon receives an adhesive bandage after receiving her flu shot courtesy of the province's top doctor, Dr. Brent Roussin. (Ian Froese/CBC)

The usual flu season effectively skipped Manitoba last winter as the pandemic kept people — and any potential viruses — apart. 

Only one case of influenza was recorded by the end of the winter.

But as pandemic restrictions ease, Manitobans are gathering again. It's got the province's top doctor urging everyone to get their flu shot. The province won't be spared the arrival of various influenza strains, he said.

"We have to plan for a significant respiratory virus season," Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said, as the province launched its seasonal flu shot campaign Friday morning at a Winnipeg pharmacy. 

"For the majority of Manitobans, we're interacting much more than we did last year because of that vaccine for COVID, which sets us up for transmission of the other respiratory pathogens."

Roussin encouraged Manitobans to roll up their sleeves to keep the flu at bay. He worries too many influenza cases will strain a health-care system still coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Record number roll up their sleeves

The doctor was at the Health Plus Pharmacy on Autumnwood Drive to launch the campaign, where he gave Health Minister Audrey Gordon her flu shot. 

Last year, the province celebrated a record 31.5 per cent of eligible Manitobans, six months of age and older, receiving their flu shot.

The province boosted vaccine supply by 20 per cent because it figured the pandemic would increase demand. The same amount of supply (just over 600,000 shots) have been ordered for the months to come.

Roussin's prescription this flu season will list more than a vaccination.

Some of the promotional materials for this year's flu campaign will urge Manitobans to embrace "winter wellness." 

"Over these last 18 months, we've become so focused on one cause of ill health," Roussin said, referring to COVID-19. 

"We want to bring back the focus to overall health — mental health, physical health — and again preparing Manitobans for a respiratory virus season that is somewhat uncertain."

Ashley Hart said flu shot demand at her Winnipeg pharmacy is already on pace with last year. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A pharmacist at Northway Pharmacy River Heights appreciates the greater attention toward health and wellness. 

"It's nice that we're encouraging different means for everyone to stay healthy this winter," said Ashley Hart, who also serves as president of Pharmacists Manitoba. 

Her pharmacy on Corydon Avenue in Winnipeg expects to give out 500-600 flu shots.

She said demand is already on pace with last year's record-setting campaign. 

"I think with COVID around, everyone's more aware of the benefits of vaccines and immunizations and I think the public generally wants to protect themselves and their loved ones in the best way possible," Hart said. 

The province is again targeting the flu shot to those most vulnerable and their caregivers, including specific outreach to the health-care sector and public service. Some people aged 65 and older will be eligible for the high-dose influenza vaccine.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon displays her flu shot sticker, borrowing a concept that proved popular during the province's COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The stickers will not be available immediately, though. The province has ordered stickers and will deliver them once they are ready. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Roussin is also inviting seniors to get the Pneu-P-23 vaccine, which helps to protect them against pneumococcal disease.

Manitoba will borrow from its COVID vaccination campaign by providing stickers to patients who receive their shot, which proved to be popular. The government said Friday the stickers would be delivered once they're ready. 

full list of clinic locations and dates is available on the Manitoba government website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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