Déjà vu this flu season: get your flu shot & COVID-19 booster
By Dr. Bunmi Fatoye
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, October 24, 2022
The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. As the seasons change, so does our behavior – kids go back to school and their extracurricular activities, and we spend more time indoors. As a result of this, we are more likely to be in contact with the respiratory viruses in circulation, specifically influenza, as well as COVID-19, which continues to circulate in the community.
We have long known the potential impacts of the flu, and over the past two and half years have seen the impacts of COVID-19 – both viruses can cause severe disease resulting in hospitalization, admission into ICU, and even death.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves?
The answer will likely give you déjà vu: get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19.
The flu is not new to us. We know the influenza vaccine is the most effective defense against the virus. Many of us have received this vaccine every year, for years. The vaccine is safe, and is well known to decrease the severity of the flu and prevent the worst possible outcomes. This is especially true for those groups who are the most vulnerable to severe illness and complications, including the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, younger children, and pregnant women.
And yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is still important to consider, specifically the new bivalent vaccines. We may no longer be facing public health orders and restrictions, but COVID-19 is still circulating in our community. It is recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and supported by Dr Brent Roussin, our chief provincial public health officer, that anyone who is eligible should receive the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines this fall as a booster. You can find out if you are eligible by visiting the website at https://manitoba.ca/covid19/vaccine/eligibility-criteria
We have learned from the past two winter seasons: the more time spent indoors, the higher the risk of transmission. The original vaccine doses have proven to reduce the severity of infection in those affected. However, the new bivalent vaccines have been shown to offer protection against severe outcomes from both the original variant and the more recent Omicron variant, which will help to further protect you against COVID-19 this respiratory virus season.
As we protect ourselves and each other, we are doing what we can to protect our health care system. The ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the other challenges we are facing are putting a lot of pressure on health care facilities and staff. By getting your flu and COVID-19 vaccines, you are helping to keep people out of hospitals and clinics at an already very busy and difficult time.
Now is the time to talk to your primary care provider about receiving your flu shot for this season, and getting up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines. You can also get your shot at a pharmacy, WRHA Walk-In Connected Care Clinic or walk-in clinic. You can find more information about vaccines and where they are available at wrha.mb.ca/flu.
And as always, you can also help prevent the spread of influenza and COVID-19 by:
- Staying home if you become sick
- Washing your hands frequently
- Covering your cough
- Wearing a mask if you are in areas where you can put others at risk
I encourage you all to do your part and protect yourselves and each other to help keep our community safe and healthy this winter.
Dr. Bunmi Fatoye is a medical officer of health with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.