Alberta families have more options for where they can get flu shots.
Pharmacists can now give the immunization to kids five and older. Until this flu season, all children under nine had to go to a public health clinic or doctor’s office to get the shot.
In the first week the shot became available, many pharmacies in Calgary said families have already taken advantage of the change.
“All our patients are really happy they don’t need to wait longer in lines and they can just walk in anytime,” Bridgedale Pharmacy owner Dhruvin Rawal said. “All of them are done at the same time.”
There haven’t been any flu outbreaks so far this season, according to Alberta Health Services, which is already a leg up on circumstances this time last year.
“This year, knock on wood, we’re not seeing the same thing we saw last year,” Calgary medical health officer Dr. Judy MacDonald said. “There is some but not at all like it was last year where we were already in the throws of influenza with many outbreaks.”
MacDonald said the sooner people get the shot, the better.
“The earlier you get the vaccine, the better prepared you are for influenza when it does come,” she said. “It does take your immune system about two weeks to respond adequately to the vaccine once you’ve got it.”
MacDonald said last year’s flu strain was a tough one to fight and the flu vaccine was only 42 per cent effective.
Early indicators say this year’s major strains won’t be as difficult to fend off and health officials are optimistic the shot will be a better match.
“At an early age, flu can hit very hard for the kids,” Rawal said. “It is very important for the kids to get the vaccine — builds up immunity and is beneficial in the long run.”
If a child under nine is getting immunized for the first time, health officials advise two doses for full protection.