Nova Scotia

What Strang says Nova Scotia needs to do to avoid a flu season

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health has hopes that more people will get their flu shot this year, following in the footsteps of the Southern Hemisphere.

'I'd like to see every single last dose of vaccine get administered in somebody's arm'

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said he hopes to see every dose of the flu vaccine used in the province this year. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health has hopes that there will be no flu season in the province this year.

Dr. Robert Strang said in an interview on Monday he is encouraging as many Nova Scotians as possible to get their flu shot.

"Quite frankly I'd like to see every single last dose of vaccine get administered in somebody's arm and to have no vaccine available in January," he said.

Health officials have been looking to the Southern Hemisphere's flu season, where the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says the number of people getting flu shots this year has risen by 25 per cent. That, combined with the COVID-19 hygiene protocols, meant there was virtually no spread of influenza.

And Strang said he hopes the same thing happens in Nova Scotia.

"We would expect and hope that as long as we all stick with the COVID protocols it'll have a significant positive impact on influenza as well," he said.

"But that doesn't diminish the importance at all of having as many Nova Scotians as possible add another layer and the best way to protect influenza and that is getting a flu vaccine."

'The flu vaccine is safe'

Nova Scotia has brought in 493,750 doses of the flu vaccine this year, more than the province has ever ordered. The first shipment arrived early last week.

Strang said typically 38 to 39 per cent of Nova Scotians get their flu shot each year. 

"We may be in the midst of a circulation of COVID after Christmas and that's right when we get flu season. We want to avoid as much as possible both of those viruses, because together they would have a significant impact on our health-care system," he said.

"There's lots of misinformation out there about flu vaccine, but we know that the flu vaccine is safe. It's effective, it's not 100 per cent effective, but certainly getting a flu vaccine, you get much better protection than not getting a flu vaccine at all."

The flu shot is free in Nova Scotia and available from most pharmacies, many of which are requiring appointments this year, as well as from family physicians and nurse practitioners.

A patient receives a flu shot from a health-care professional at The CHP (Community Health Program) Mobile Health Unit parked at South Street Congregational Church on Sept. 24, 2020, in Pittsfield, Mass. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via the Associated Press)

People can also contact their local public health office if they have a child under two years old who does not have a family doctor, or if they have difficulty accessing the vaccine.

Strang said those offices will help people find out where to get the shot, and in some rural communities, those offices may offer the immunization themselves.

It can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so people are encouraged to get their flu shot over the next eight weeks.

"Everybody doesn't have to run out today, they need to have some patience because we're getting different allotments of vaccine in the coming weeks that will be distributed," Strang said.

"But certainly between now and Christmas we really encourage as many Nova Scotians as possible to get out and look for a flu vaccine."

Strang said it will be next spring before officials find out how many people are immunized this year.