Montreal

With only 4 confirmed cases in the province, Quebec halts flu vaccine campaign

Quebec's flu vaccination campaign is coming to an end on Friday because there is no flu to vaccinate against and resources will instead be invested in distributing the new COVID-19 inoculation.

Public health director says if you have flu-like symptoms, it's probably COVID-19

Nearly 1.5 million people in Quebec have been vaccinated against the flu since Nov. 1 and only 4 cases were detected between August and December. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Quebec's flu vaccination campaign is coming to an end on Friday because there is next-to-no flu to vaccinate against and resources will instead be redirected to inoculating residents against COVID-19.

In a Thursday announcement, the Health Ministry says measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are also helping to fight the flu. 

Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC) says the 2019-2020 influenza season ended abruptly in mid-March, concurrent with the implementation of public health measures.

Since April, the virus has been almost completely absent in the province, with only four cases identified between the end of August and early December, according to Quebec's public health institute (INSPQ). 

In the rest of Canada, there were 32 identified cases of the flu, the INSPQ says. Canada is not the only country seeing a dramatic drop in flu cases, as the United States and Europe are reporting similar situations, the INSPQ says.

"Experts note that the spread of influenza has greatly decreased and that the influenza activity index has been almost zero since last April, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada," the ministry says in a statement.

Because of that and the decline in the number of requests for the vaccine, the province's immunization committee recommends discontinuing the campaign.

Public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said that any flu-like symptoms are not likely to be a sign of the flu.

"At this point, there is no flu in Quebec," Arruda said on Wednesday. "If you have symptoms similar to the flu, it is probably COVID-19."

He stressed the importance of getting tested, self-isolating and following public health protocols if the symptoms do prove to be COVID-19.

Nearly 1.5 million people have been vaccinated against the flu since Nov. 1 and doses will still be made available to those at risk who request it, the ministry says.

Influenza is among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada, according to IPAC. It is estimated that influenza causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths annually. 

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