AHS Facts on Influenza Immunization

AHS Facts on Influenza Immunization

Rosanne Fortier
News Correspondent

Flu season is upon us. Melissa Ballantyne, Manager for AHS Communications and Community Engagement for Central Zone, Ballantyne shared statistics and facts on influenza immunization last week.

“This year’s influenza immunization program began on October 19. Immunization is the single most effective means of arming yourself, and your children, against influenza. Albertans have experienced a pandemic this year already; we need to all do our part to continue preventing all illnesses, including by being immunized.

All Albertans, six months of age and older, are eligible to be immunized, free of charge. AHS is offering vaccine through its public health clinics to children under five years of age and their family and household members, individuals who do not have a provincial health care number, and to individuals who live in a community where there are no other immunizing health care providers.

This year, Albertans eligible to be immunized through AHS are being asked to book an appointment. There are no drop-in immunizations at AHS locations. To book your appointment, AHS has developed an online booking tool at ahs.ca/influenza.

All Albertans who do not meet the above criteria are eligible to receive immunization through pharmacists or physicians. The vaccine offered to the general public this season protects against four strains of the influenza virus. The four influenza vaccine strains are A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus; A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus;                B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus; and B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus.

Influenza immunization cannot give you influenza. Influenza immunization doesn’t protect you against COVID-19, stomach upset, or common colds. You can still get sick with stomach upset, common colds, or other viruses/bacterial illnesses, but influenza vaccine will help towards arming you against the more severe illness of influenza.

After receiving influenza immunization, some individuals can develop fever, cough, runny nose, or sore throat as possible side effects from the immunization. The possible side effects from influenza immunization are short term and could last one to two days and 24 to 48 hours after immunization.

However, because these side effects are similar to symptoms of COVID-19 and require individuals to isolate, you must stay home and away from others if you develop these symptoms. Children will have to stay home with a parent or guardian.  If the symptoms resolve within 48 hours after onset, individuals can return to normal activities, unless they have been instructed to quarantine or isolate for other reasons. If symptoms persist longer than 48 hours, individuals should continue to stay home, contact Health Link at 811 or complete the COVID-19 online self-assessment tool for testing.

“Last year, the provincial immunization rate was 33 percent. A total of 1,438,866 doses of influenza vaccine was administered (compared to 30 percent for 2018/19). There were 8,470 lab-confirmed cases of influenza across the province, 1,596 of which were hospitalized, and sadly, of those hospitalized with influenza, there were 41 deaths.

“Remember, you can be contagious with influenza before you even feel sick. In addition to getting immunized, wash your hands often, practice good respiratory etiquette, and stay home when sick. Physical distancing can prevent more than COVID-19 – it can help prevent influenza too.”