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Albertans encouraged to get free flu shot, starting this week

Anticipating what could be a busy flu season, government encourages Albertans six months and older to get free influenza immunization.
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Health experts advise getting a flu shot this year, especially to relieve added pressure on Alberta's health care system. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Remember how there were literally no flu cases last year? Well, that's not what health experts predict for this winter. And they're asking Albertans to book a free flu shot to stay healthy and reduce pressure on Alberta’s health-care system during COVID-19.

The government is encouraging Individuals to go to bookvaccine.alberta.ca to sign up for free-of-charge flu vaccinations, with appointments starting this week at participating pharmacies and Alberta Health Services (AHS) public health clinics.

Albertans can talk to their family doctor or contact Health Link at 811 to book appointments. Participating pharmacies are also welcoming drop-ins as of this week. In all, the government has ordered 2.1 million doses of flu vaccine this season.

“Getting immunized will help stop the spread of influenza and reduce flu-related visits to the emergency ward," said Minister of Health Jason Copping, adding that recent studies and reviews confirm it is safe for people to get a flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 shot.

During last year’s flu season, a record 37 per cent of Albertans were immunized compared to 33 per cent the year before. Remarkably, Alberta had no lab-confirmed influenza cases and no flu-related deaths in the 2020/21 influenza season. That compares to over 8,000 confirmed cases of the virus in 2019/20 and 41 deaths.

“By keeping the number of influenza cases low, we can help protect at-risk Albertans and reduce the pressure on our health-care system," reminded AHS President Dr. Verna Yiu.

This year, Albertans aged 65 years and older are eligible to receive a high-dose flu vaccine, while those ages six months to 64 years will receive the regular dose. Both formulations protect people from four common strains of the influenza virus, which can cause serious illness and death, especially among vulnerable populations like seniors, young children, pregnant woman and those with chronic conditions.