Medical officer says flu vaccines in Indigenous communities are extremely important this year.

Tawnya Plain Eagle gets her flu shot at flu Clinic. Photo by Jared Wolf Child.
By Tawnya Plain Eagle

Dr. Parminder Thiara, medical officer of health with Indigenous Services Canada for First Nations and Inuit and Health branch, encourages people to get their flu vaccines this year. 

According to Thiara First Nation communities at higher risk because of the high rates of chronic illness like diabetes. 

“We do have data that demonstrates there are some conditions such as diabetes that are commonly found in First Nation communities,” Thiara said. 

Many homes in First Nation communities also deal with overcrowding, which makes it easy to transfer influenzas.

“By having the flu shot we could actually avoid people from developing the flu, or if they are already experiencing flu symptoms, it minimizes the severity of the sickness,” Thiara said. 

Influenza immunization is more important this season than ever before according Alberta Health Services.

Thiara said there is roughly 12 thousand cases across Canada that end up being hospitalized each year. 

However, these severe cases are most common with individuals who already have compromised health conditions.

“Those are at highest risk are usually pregnant women, chronic illness, the elderly and kids,” Thiara said. 

With the amount of cases that utilize the health care system each year due to influenzas, Thiara feels it is important to save those resources for patience effected by COVID-19. 

“Many of the same individuals who are at high risk for the influenzas are also at high risk for COVID,” she said.

That is why she says it is important to vaccinate every year.

“What we see with the influenza is it’s a virus that changes its protein from year to year.”

If you received a vaccine last year, the chance of you being protected from influenzas the following year is low because the strain of influenza may have changed. 

“That is why every year the World Health Organization makes recommendations on what will be circulating in the northern hemisphere,” Thiara said.

“They usually identify multiple strains they think will be circulating.” 

 For more information regarding flu vaccines you can contact Aakom-Kiyii Health Services at 403.965.3809.

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