Yukoners urged to get flu shots as vaccinations begin in pharmacies for first time

As flu vaccines roll out in Yukon pharmacies for the first time, the territory's chief medical officer urged people to get their flu shots to avoid unnecessary COVID-19 testing.

New COVID cases this week pose no risk to the public, says Dr. Brendan Hanley

Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, urged Yukoners to get their flu shot to avoid unnecessary COVID-19 testing. (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

As flu vaccines roll out in Yukon pharmacies for the first time, the territory's chief medical officer urged people to get their flu shots to avoid unnecessary COVID-19 testing.

"As influenza and COVID[-19] have very similar presentations, we really would like to keep it out of Yukon this year," said Dr. Brendan Hanley at his weekly update Wednesday.

He said anyone with flu-like symptoms will need to get COVID-19 testing this year.

Flu shots began this week for people with chronic conditions. The general public can get flu vaccines starting on Monday. 

Yukoners can get their flu shot by booking an appointment in a pharmacy, dropping by the Whitehorse Convention Centre or through home care.

Hanley said more than 900 people got the flu shot at the convention centre in the first two days and that wait times were minimal.

New cases pose no public risk

Meanwhile, Hanley said there was no risk to the public after Yukon reported two new COVID-19 cases linked to travel outside the Yukon/B.C. bubble on Monday. Both patients were self-isolating at home when they developed mild symptoms, he said.

However, Hanley asked all Yukoners to make a plan in case they develop symptoms and need to isolate.

"Are you ready to self isolate on short notice?" he asked. "What support might you need? Do you know who to call or where to go to get tested?"

He said people should not overlook a slight cough or unusual throat tickle. 

Skagway decision 'unusual' 

Hanley also responded to Skagway, Alaska's "unusual" decision to publicly identified a man with COVID-19 in order to speed up contact tracing.

He said that approach would not work in the Yukon. 

"That was certainly something that took us all by surprise, and it was an unusual move," said Hanley. 

Yukon's practice so far, has been to release very little information about people who contract COVID-19.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, who was also at the update, said publicly releasing names could also bring problems like harassment.

He said the five recent cases in Skagway have not increased the risk to people in Yukon. He said he supports the decision to keep the U.S. border closed. 

The premier added the territory's Civil Emergency Measures Act enforcement team charged one person this week for failing to self isolate.

Harassing Americans 'unacceptable'

Silver said he was disappointed to hear about an incident last week, where American travellers had their car window smashed during an overnight stop in Haines Junction

"This kind of behaviour is unacceptable," said Silver. "We need to support each other through these challenging times."

Meanwhile, Hanley expressed continued support for Yukon's travel bubble with B.C. He noted that the territory has not had any cases linked to B.C. since opening up the bubble on July 1.

However, he urged people who travel to B.C. to "lay low" and respect Yukon's gathering rules when returning home.

"We have to keep earning this privilege. Like a prized gift, use it well and wisely," he said.

"Wherever you are, be tuned in to what's in the local news about where COVID[-19] activity is occurring."

Written by Laura Howells, with files from Philippe Morin