Although Northern Health still doesn’t have an exact date, the updated influenza vaccines are expected to be available to the general public at the end of October.
According to Grace Salvo, a resident physician with Northern Health’s Public Health team, this year the influenza A (H3N2) strain, which has been dominant for the past two years, as well as the B strain, have been updated.
“We know in recent years the vaccine has not been very effective for the H3N2 strain,” said Salvo, adding that this contributed to the vaccine’s 40 per cent effectiveness overall last year.
When asked about the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine, Salvo said that’s hard to predict because influenza vaccines are usually produced six months ahead of the flu season.
“This year it will definitely give partial coverage for H3N2 and perhaps better coverage for H1N1 and influenza B,” she said.
“If this year is H1N1 dominant, then we can expect the [vaccine’s] effectiveness to go up,” she continued. “But there’s no way to predict that – if the dominant strain will be H1N1 or H3N2.”
“We’re hoping that as science gets better, over the years, vaccines will get better,” she added.
Despite the flu vaccine not being 100 per cent effective, Northern Health still recommends all individuals over the age of six months to get vaccinated.
“It’s one of the best things people can do to prevent themselves and their loved ones from getting sick this season,” she said. “We’re especially encouraging populations that are more at risk of having severe consequences from the virus.”
Populations at risk include infants between six months and 59 months of age, people over the age of 65, pregnant women, individuals living with chronic diseases, as well as anyone who comes into contact with them.
“Even if you don’t feel sick you could still spread the virus,” said Salvo.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that influenza causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year in Canada.
Houston’s Pharmasave expects the vaccines to be available at the end of the month.