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Health

Flu shot clinics open in Northwest Territories from Thursday


Flu shots will be available in Yellowknife from Thursday, October 21, the Northwest Territories’ health authority says.

This year’s flu season is considered unpredictable and potentially dangerous to some as flu, officially, never even reached the territory last winter. The NWT recorded no cases of flu in 2020-21.

That absence is attributed to restrictions related to Covid-19 at the time, not just in the NWT – where inbound travel was severely restricted this time last year – but worldwide, where far stronger social-distancing and travel restrictions were in place than is now the case.

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A year without exposure to flu may mean many people are more vulnerable to common strains this year than would ordinarily be the case.

“We are hearing about increased RSV activity,” said Dr Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, on Friday. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, causes mild, cold-like symptoms in most people. How RSV spreads can be an indicator for what will happen with flu.

“There is anticipation that there will be increased flu activity,” Dr Kandola told Cabin Radio.

“With the vaccine, there have been fewer restrictions on travel. The US just opened up its border. We would expect more respiratory activity if there’s more travel, more people moving around. So we need to be prepared.”

Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said earlier this week: “This year we are anticipating a possible flu resurgence due to lower levels of immunity in the population as a result of less circulation last flu season, and the easing of some restrictive, community-based public health measures.”

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Online booking for a flu shot in Yellowknife is expected to be made available this week. (Currently, the health authority’s website allows only booking of Covid-19 tests or booster shots.)

“We’re hoping to give the flu vaccine at the same time as we give the Covid boosters, so you get two for the price of one if you’re over 60,” said Kandola, referring to Yellowknife residents, who can now access booster shots if they are 60 or over. The booster program will expand to more communities in the coming week.

“The flu can mimic Covid so it’s best to try to protect yourself against both respiratory viruses,” Kandola added.

“The hospital has had a huge amount of admissions in the last two months around Covid. The last thing you want to do is add flu-related admissions on top of all that.

“To avoid that, and to protect yourself and avoid flu-related complications for people at high risk, get the flu shot. If you’re eligible, get your booster for Covid as well.”

This year’s Yellowknife flu shot clinic will be at the Centre Square Mall rather than last year’s venue, the Multiplex. You can book one appointment to receive both the flu shot and a Covid-19 booster if you are eligible.

“Details for flu vaccination clinics in other communities will be announced in the coming week,” the NWT’s health authority said.

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