As the cold weather approaches, Ontario is reminding everyone about the importance of getting their free flu shot to protect themselves from getting the flu and spreading it to others.
Each year, thousands of people across the province get sick with the flu, which puts extra pressure on hospitals and the health care system. The flu shot provides the best defence and is a proven way to reduce emergency department visits and wait times to help end hallway health care.
On Wednesday, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, was at Rexall Pharmacy at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto to get the flu shot.
“Every Ontarian can join our efforts to put an end to hallway health care by getting their flu shot,” said Elliott. “In fact, getting your flu shot is an important part of keeping all Ontarians healthy and out of hospital, while reducing the strain on our emergency departments. The flu shot will be available across the province to protect you and your family.”
The free flu shot is especially important for young children, pregnant women and people 65 years and older who are at high risk of flu-related complications. It will be available at family doctor and nurse practitioner offices, public health units and participating pharmacies for anyone five years of age or older. For children between six months and four years old, the shot can be administered by a doctor or nurse practitioner.
Several health care leaders joined Elliott in encouraging Ontarians to get their free flu shot.
“Minister Elliott set an excellent example for Ontarians today by getting the flu shot,” said Sandra Hanna, Interim CEO of the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada. “The vaccine remains the single most effective way to protect against influenza and its complications. Pharmacists in 4,500 communities across the province are ready to deliver the flu shot in a convenient, accessible way.”
“The flu shot is safe and is your best defence to protect you, your loved ones and your community,” said Dr. Sohail Gandhi, President of the Ontario Medical Association. “While the flu is common, it can also be serious and cause many complications. The flu kills an estimated 3,500 Canadians every year and puts more than 12,000 in the hospital.”
“Nurse practitioners are proud to play such an important role in administering flu shots across Ontario,” said Dawn Tymianski, Chief Executive Officer of the Nurse Practitioner’s Association of Ontario (NPAO). “It is a proven way to increase both personal and public health and NPAO applauds efforts by the government to increase awareness and access.”
“Since 2012, Ontarians have increasingly demonstrated their preference to getting their flu shot from their community pharmacist, with more than 1.2 million pharmacy immunizations last year alone,” said Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “Getting your flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and everyone around you against influenza, and what better place than getting it close to home, when you want it – from your pharmacist.”
Ontario has a comprehensive plan to end hallway health care, which includes making investments and advancing new initiatives across four pillars:
- Prevention and health promotion: keeping patients as healthy as possible in their communities and out of hospitals, including offering all Ontarians free flu shots.
- Providing the right care in the right place: when patients need care, ensure that they receive it in the most appropriate setting, not always the hospital.
- Integration and improved patient flow: better integrate care providers to ensure patients spend less time waiting in hospitals when they are ready to be discharged.
- Building capacity: build new hospital and long-term care beds while increasing community-based services across Ontario.
- The flu is a contagious illness that can result in a hospital stay or can lead to complications such as pneumonia, heart attack or, in rare cases, death.
- Flu season can start as early as November. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to reach full effect, so be sure to get the shot as soon as it’s available.
- Young children – especially those under two – pregnant women and seniors are particularly at risk of serious complications due to the flu.
- A 2018 Canadian study found that people are six times more likely to have a heart attack in the week after having the flu, and this risk may be higher among those 65 years and older.
- Last flu season, there were about 5,450 flu-related hospitalizations in Ontario and 275 flu-related deaths.
- For more information on the flu and where to get your shot, visit ontario.ca/flu.