Flu shot to be more accessible in Region

flu shots - lena
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

It comes when you least expect, it can knock you out for days and it can be a detriment to both your overall health and school work: It’s flu season and it’s fast approaching.

As a result, Waterloo Region has changed the ways in which the vaccine will be available to the public.

The influenza vaccine will be available at 83 pharmacies throughout the Kitchener-Waterloo area, up four times from the 21 pharmacies last year. Linda Black, manager of the Preventable Disease Program at the Region of Waterloo Public Health commented on the change in the availability of the vaccine, explaining that this will increase its accessibility to residents throughout the community.

“I think the purpose was to provide increased accessibility to residents who usually obtain the flu shot without having to go to a big clinic and wait in line,” Black said. “The hope is that it will make access easier for the Region and residents to get the flu shot. And it will hopefully increase the amount of uptake.”

During the 2012-2013 flu season, 14 Public Health community clinics were held, with 8,665 people immunized. This number is 25.5 per cent lower than the previous season.

However as Black explained, the distribution of the vaccine in the Region remained stable as there were 21 pharmacies that were introduced as alternative locations for the vaccine.

Influenza is a serious, acute respiratory sickness which results in symptoms including fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, physical exhaustion, cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose.

Immunization arguably provides the best protection against the virus.

From Oct. 1, 2012 to May 11, 2013 there were 392 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Waterloo Region. Of these cases, 140 individuals were hospitalized, and there were 12 reported deaths where influenza was a contributing factor. The number of influenza-related deaths is at an all-time high in the last six years.

Despite this increase in flu-related deaths, Kyung Soo Park, a student at the University of Waterloo, does not feel personally vulnerable to the influenza virus. “I don’t think it’s important,” he said. “I get a common cold here and there, but I don’t think I need it. I didn’t grow up in a place where the flu shot was the most important thing on the agenda.”

Park is not alone in thinking the flu does not pose a serious threat.
Stefan Clarke, a student at Wilfrid Laurier University, has never had the influenza vaccine, and he was not convinced that increased availability will increase the number of those being vaccinated.

“If you’re a person who gets it regularly you’ll go to certain means to get it,” Clarke said. “I think having it available in more pharmacies will just mean it’s more available to people who would already be getting it.”
Black, however, asserted the benefits of receiving the vaccine, not only at an individual level but to protect other members within the community.

“It’s really the best defense in fighting influenza, not only for yourself, but those around that potentially could have more serious side effects to the flu, like your grandparents or a newborn baby. It’s important to protect them.”

The influenza virus shifts in strain each season, making it important to vaccinate against it each year.

“Even if you get the flu and you have the flu shot, oftentimes you have a much milder form of it and it doesn’t take you out for as long,” added Black. “So along with the good infection control, like making sure you clean surfaces, washing your hands frequently, cough into your sleeve, things like that, it’s one of the best things you can do to prevent the flu every season.”

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