Why the flu shot matters this year

Stéfanie Brisson (right), Chief of Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being in the Workplace for our CIUSSS, receives a flu shot from Nurse Clinician Nicole Dallaire
Stéfanie Brisson (right), Chief of Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being in the Workplace for our CIUSSS, receives a flu shot from Nurse Clinician Nicole Dallaire

This year more than ever, roll up your sleeve and make a difference.

Getting vaccinated against the flu is a good idea every year. But the convergence of the seasonal flu with the COVID-19 pandemic has made it essential, especially for healthcare workers.

That’s why our CIUSSS is making it easier than ever to get vaccinated. The annual campaign, which runs to December 18, will unfold at every site and under expanded schedules.

“We want to vaccinate as many people as possible,” says Stéfanie Brisson, Chief of Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being in the Workplace – Prevention Component – for our CIUSSS.

Healthcare workers have several reasons to get a flu shot. First, it can help avert a potential “twindemic” of flu and COVID cases, which could overwhelm our already strained healthcare system.

Then there are personal reasons. There’s no vaccine for COVID-19, but there is one for influenza. And vaccination remains the best way to avoid the flu and prevent spreading it.

“Every person who gets vaccinated counts,” Ms. Brisson says. “You’ll help protect your loved ones, your patients and your colleagues.”

The “twindemic” worries health professionals, since there are compounded risks that come from having two respiratory viruses in circulation at the same time. The 1918 flu pandemic provides valuable lessons, says Dr. Leighanne Parkes, infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at the Jewish General Hospital.

“Based on our experience in the 1918 pandemic, we know that people that get the flu are more predisposed to having secondary infections,” Dr. Parkes said during the town hall for our CIUSSS’s staff in October. “And if that second infection is COVID, which can run amok on your lungs, then that can result in more severe disease.”

Both viruses affect the respiratory system, she notes.

“The biggest concern is that having the flu and COVID simultaneously might lead to increased severity, including increases of stays in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), hospitalization or death.”

Some lessons about this year’s flu have also emerged from Australia, whose flu season coincided with the first wave of the pandemic. That country saw a welcome drop in flu cases. Experts attribute part of the decrease to measures aimed at curbing COVID-19—like staying home, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing. But they say higher-than-average vaccination rates also helped keep flu numbers low.

That’s why taking a shot matters. For our CIUSSS, flu clinics will operate by appointment only this year, one of several measures aimed at increasing controls and safety precautions at the clinics. If need be, the CIUSSS will add slots to vaccination schedules to accommodate everyone.

“We’re very flexible,” Amina Talib, Associate Director of Human Resources for our CIUSSS, said during the town hall. “We’re covering evenings, night shifts, and weekends to make sure that we give everybody an opportunity to make an appointment.”

Managers within our CIUSSS will circulate sign-up sheets, so that staff can register for an appointment.

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