Amid all the bad news of the Covid-19 pandemic for the past couple of years, there was a little ray of good news: our anti-Covid measures kept influenza under control.

With most of those measures relaxing, flu forecasters are warning of an influenza resurgence.

Alberta began its annual flu shot campaign yesterday, and Bonnyville pharmacist Caitlin McGrath says it’s important that we protect ourselves.

“We are recommending that everybody get immunized,” McGrath said. “It’s not always just for ourselves and our own health, but to protect our loved ones—newborn babies, or our elderly friends and family.”

Most pharmacies are participating in the annual rollout.

The influenza vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning it protects against the four strains of the virus that are predicted to be the most prevalent this year. The shot is covered by Alberta Health. 

McGrath advises it takes two weeks for the immunity to kick in, so the earlier you are vaccinated the sooner you will be protected.

Last year Alberta introduced a higher dose for people over 65 years of age. This is intended to protect the people most vulnerable to serious consequences from influenza.

“It still has the four strains, it’s just at a higher volume,” McGrath said. “The standard dose we give is 0.5 millitres into the arm; this is 0.7. It’s just a bit of a heavier dose to add that that much more protection.”

Many people confuse influenza with gastro-intestinal discomfort mistakenly known as “stomach flu.” Influenza is actually a respiratory infection that can be extremely serious.

And with the Covid virus still circulating, there is a danger of getting both infections at the same time.

“Influenza can cause serious complications and even death, especially in vulnerable populations with compromised immune systems and as we get older,” McGrath said.

“Something to consider is when we’re sick, we’re already run down and we can be vulnerable to further viruses and complications. We can become more vulnerable, depending how sick we are, to contracting more than one illness at a time.” 

People who are considering a Covid booster can get the flu shot at the same time. McGrath says there may or may not be increased post-vaccination discomfort for people who get both at once, so they may want to space them out.

Pharmacies across Alberta are standing by to administer the influenza vaccine.

“Hopefully we’ll see lots of friendly faces,” McGrath said.

Caitlin McGrath is ready with flu vaccines at the pharmacy counter. JEFF GAYE