In spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as precautions being taken by health authorities in other parts of the country, immunization clinics will indeed go ahead in Saskatchewan this fall to help combat the seasonal flu.

According to a recent report, Interior Health – one of five publicly funded regional health authorities in British Columbia – will not be offering drop-in flu clinics this year because of concerns related to COVID-19.

“Interior Health will not proceed with its annual drop-in clinics for influenza immunization this fall, as the resulting gatherings of people would pose a risk of spreading COVID-19,” reads the story which originally appeared in the Aug. 5 edition of Kamloops This Week.

Flu shots will still be available by appointment only or by visiting pharmacies, travel clinics and primary care settings.
The COVID-19 situation in B.C. is much more prevalent than it is in Saskatchewan, however. As of Aug. 26, British Columbia had reported 5,242 cases of to Saskatchewan’s 1,604. Of the B.C. cases, 4,114 had recovered whereas, in Saskatchewan, 1,520 had recovered.

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority is currently planning for the fall influenza immunization clinics, and more details will be available prior to the usual start of the campaign in October,” stated an SHA spokesperson. “The plan will ensure clinics are following public health orders and will include measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

Among those pleased with this news and who encourages everyone to get his or her flu shot this fall is Dr. Gavin Van de Venter, chief of staff at the Meadow Lake Hospital.

“It’s important to remember influenza and COVID-19 are two completely different viruses,” Van de Venter explained. “The vaccine from one is not going to protect you from the other, but with businesses reopening and children going back to school, we are expecting a second wave of COVID-19 to hit and, when it does, it will be right at the annual flu season.”

Because some symptoms related to the two illnesses are similar if not exactly same, Van de Venter said this will make it difficult for doctors to tell the difference when determining which patients are suffering from the flu and which ones may have COVID-19, adding the only way to know for sure is to conduct proper COVID-19 testing.

“If people are immunized against the flu virus, it will help us in terms of diagnosing COVID-19,” he added.
Meanwhile, Van de Venter encourages the public to continue wearing masks, to practice social distancing and to wash their hands regularly.

“We’ve had phenomenal success controlling COVID-19 in Meadow Lake,” he said. “We’ve had only five cases since this all began, so we’ve done really well. Meadow Lake should be proud of what it has accomplished as far as not putting others at risk, but that effort needs to continue.”

Van de Venter went on to say the pandemic will not be called off until the World Health Organization sees overall case numbers starting to fizzle out, which won’t be until a vaccine is available.

“Things will get better, but it will never be gone completely,” he noted.

by Phil Ambroziak