Influenza can be a serious illness, one that takes its toll on people in schools, hospitals and other workplaces every year. Getting an influenza immunization (the "flu shot") is a safe and effective way to be protected from influenza. Every year, the government of British Columbia provides over 1 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine to immunization providers.
People at higher risk are eligible for free immunizations. This year – as in past years – the vaccine will be available free-of-charge through public health clinics, designated pharmacy locations and many physicians’ offices for those with chronic health conditions, seniors and other identified at-risk populations. It is also available for purchase for those British Columbians who are not at high-risk. For a full listing of eligible groups to receive the vaccine free of charge please visit ImmunizeBC's influenza page .
Health care workers are also eligible for free influenza immunization, both to protect themselves and their families, and to help protect vulnerable patients in their care. In fact, to protect vulnerable patients, health care workers are required to either get the flu shot, or to wear a mask for the duration of the flu season. Visitors to health care facilities must also wear a mask if they are not immunized. As contacts of high-risk individuals (hospital or residential care patients), visitors are also eligible for a free flu shot.
The vaccine does not protect against the viruses and bacteria that cause colds or what is commonly called "stomach flu". Besides the annual influenza vaccine, there are other simple steps that people can use everyday to protect their and others' health from influenza and other illnesses. These include washing hands frequently, coughing or sneezing into a tissue and throwing it in the garbage immediately, cleaning surfaces regularly and staying home when sick.