By Joel van der Veen
DAVIDSON — Time to roll up your sleeves again — flu season is here.
Health officials are again advising Saskatchewan residents to protect themselves by getting immunized against influenza.
The vaccine is available free of charge to all residents six months and older.
Public flu vaccination clinics are being held across the province beginning this week.
The first clinic for Davidson residents is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Davidson Town Hall. (A complete list of scheduled clinics in Davidson and other communities follows at the end of this article.)
Patients aged nine years and over can also receive the vaccine at participating pharmacies, including Midway Pharmacy in Davidson.
Local pharmacist Dave Nykiforuk said just over 180 people received the vaccine through his business last year. Customers have already been asking about this year’s vaccine for a couple of weeks, he said last week.
The program is designed not to compete with the scheduled clinics, but rather to improve access to the vaccine across the board, said Nykiforuk.
“I think people find it convenient,” he said. “Lots of people like to go to the clinic when they have them, but it doesn’t always work for everyone.”
The vaccine will be available from the pharmacy till sometime in March, generally considered the end of flu season.
Nykiforuk said 90 per cent of customers looking for the vaccine will receive it in the first month. After that the demand drops off substantially, though they will still get the occasional request — from snowbirds returning home in the new year, for instance.
The vaccine is also available through the Royal Street Pharmacy in Imperial, according to a list provided by the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan.
Officials advised that high-risk groups — such as seniors, children, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems — are particularly encouraged to get the vaccine.
This year’s vaccines contain the influenza A and B viral strains predicted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most likely to circulate in the upcoming flu season.
The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on the match between the vaccine strains and the flu strains circulating in the patient’s community. The patient’s age and immune response are also factors.