The fall 2020 influenza season will be markedly different from previous years. OPH anticipates a higher demand for the influenza vaccine as a result of residents’ heightened interest and concerns of COVID. In anticipation, below is an update on influenza preparedness.
For 2020, a greater number of 7 day a week OPH flu vaccination clinics are in the works. Extra resource capacity, mobile clinics and hiring of additional staff is planned to meet expected demand. OPH is proactively working with congregate settings such as group homes and shelters to establish mobile and stationary clinics to support residents who face barriers to accessing the vaccine.
This week, OPH received the first order of vaccines from the Ministry of Health. OPH is working with community partners to distribute the doses to hospitals, long term care and retirement homes, local physicians and clinics.
Local physicians, clinics and pharmacies will begin offering the vaccine in the coming weeks. A full list of OPH flu clinic locations and dates will be announced and promoted later in October. These clinics will be shared and communicated with all Councillors.
2020 Influenza Vaccine
A high-dose flu vaccine is available for adults 65 years of age and older, protecting against three different strains of the influenza virus. For those 65 years old or older, a physician can help to choose between the quadrivalent influenza vaccine and the high-dose trivalent vaccine. Residents who meet the age criteria will have the option to receive the high-dose vaccine at pharmacies.
Flumist® Quadrivalent, a live attenuated quadrivalent influenza vaccine given as a nasal spray, is not publicly funded this year, but may be available for purchase at participating pharmacies.
The flu vaccine is safe for anyone 6 months of age or older who does not have a contraindication to the flu vaccine.
Flu Shot Locations
This year, Ottawa residents have three options for obtaining their flu shot:
- OPH-run public influenza clinics in fixed locations. To avoid crowding and to control the flow of clients in and out of these locations, the clinics will be by appointment.
- Joint “OPH-community physician” clinics will be established for primary care providers to immunize their patients. This collaboration is to address challenges some primary care providers are identifying with limitations to their office’s ability to handle influenza immunization in the time of COVID-19, such as adequate physical space for post-vaccine monitoring.
- Pharmacies will provide flu vaccine to Ottawa residents 5 years and older, including the high-dose vaccine that is publicly funded for seniors.
OPH is working hard to ensure vaccination clinics throughout the city and is identifying locations for potential mobile vaccination clinics.
Seasonal Influenza vs COVID-19
As you may be aware, “the flu,” more properly known as seasonal influenza, is a common contagious infection. The flu affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It is spread through droplets that have been coughed or sneezed by someone who has the flu. You can get the flu by shaking hands with someone who has the flu or by touching surfaces that have come into contact with flu droplets, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Flu symptoms include a sudden fever or feeling feverish as well as a cough and/or a sore throat. It is common to also have a runny or stuffy nose, head- or body-aches, and chills.
Influenza symptoms mirror COVID-19 symptoms and both viruses have the same methods of transmission. Understanding this to be true means that we need to continue practice being COVIDWise to protect against transmission of either virus.
OPH is taking steps to ensure Ottawa residents have access to the influenza vaccine and that the community is prepared to respond when required.
While there are similarities between COVID-19 and seasonal influenza, it is vital to recognize that the medical and scientific communities are still learning about the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19.
Please always wear a mask when you are interacting with those outside of your household, and continue to practice being COVID Wise to protect your family against illness.