Health authority offers free flu vaccines

Shots "free for almost everybody," according to public health nurse.

Flu season is here.

Once again, Northern Health is offering free flu shots to those who are at a high risk of contracting influenza.

“If anybody has ever seen anyone with the flu or has had the flu themselves, they will know it’s very worthwhile to get the flu vaccine because you get quite ill, even if you’re a healthy young person,” said Martha Murray, Northern Health public health nurse and northwest communicable disease coordinator. “The other thing that’s really important is that by protecting yourself you’re also protecting the others around you that you come into contact with, in particular the young and the elderly.”

The peak of flu season is usually November to April.

Those considered to be at a high risk include: people 65 years of age and over, children aged six months to five years old and their caregivers, people living in residential care facilities, children and adults with a chronic illness, first responders and health-care workers.

The pneumococcal vaccine is also being offered to seniors and those with chronic medical conditions to protect against influenza-related pneumonia.

For a complete list of those eligible, go to Northern Health’s website — www.northernhealth.ca.

In Smithers, the drop-in clinic is at the health unit on Main St. and Alfred Ave. and runs Nov. 7, 8 and 14 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Nov. 15 and 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the seniors’ centre in Telkwa will host a flu vaccination clinic on Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Both Pharmasave locations and Shoppers Drug Mart are also offering drop-in flu shots during regular business hours and Safeway’s pharmacy offers the vaccinations Monday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Drop-in clinics will run in Hazelton at the health unit on Hwy 62 on Nov. 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 8 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Nov. 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there will also be a drop-in clinic at the Kitwanga Community Centre on Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In addition to receiving a flu shot, the best defence against contracting and spreading the disease is effective hand washing, sneezing into your elbow and staying home when you are sick, Murray said.

According to Northern Health, about 1,400 people in B.C. die every year from influenza and pneumonia.

“They are free for almost everybody,” Murray said. “I highly recommend that everyone get a flu shot.”