All Ontarians can begin getting the flu shot next month

A nurse administering the seasonal flu vaccine. (File photo)

It’s time to roll up your sleeve, again.

Starting next month, Ontario is opening its annual flu immunization campaign to all residents who want to get the shot.

“Our government is prepared for flu season and is launching an even larger flu shot program this year to keep Ontarians healthy as we continue to respond to COVID-19,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement. “It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time, so if you’re receiving your flu shot and still have yet to receive a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, now is the time.”

Last year, a record number of people in Ontario received the seasonal flu shot – roughly 40 per cent of the population, compared to just 30 per cent in 2019. That has prompted the province to purchase 1.4 million more doses than last year for a total of more than 7.6 million.

According to the province, 1.8 million flu vaccine doses have been earmarked for seniors. The roll out of those doses began in September in long-term care homes. Eligibility has since opened up to all seniors and those most at risk for complications from the flu.

All other Ontarians, over the age of six months, wanting to get the shot will be able to do so for free in November through doctor and nurse practitioner offices, participating pharmacies, and public health units.

“The annual flu shot is the best defence against the flu this season,” said Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. “As we head into the fall and begin gathering indoors more often with family and friends, it is even more important to get your flu shot, in addition to following public health measures, to protect yourself and those around you.”

Thanks in large part to public health measures put in place to protect against COVID-19, last year’s flu season reached a historic low. Fewer than 25 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza were identified across the province. By comparison, in the 2019-2020 flu season there were 12,829 laboratory confirmed cases. Nationally, only 69 cases were detected throughout the last flu season, down from the usual average of 52,000 cases. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the case count was so low it didn’t even meet the threshold to officially declare the start of the 2020-2021 flu season.

The easing of some of those COVID-19 restrictions has public health and government officials warning of a resurgence of the seasonal flu this fall. As such they are urging Ontarians to continue to wear face coverings indoors, wash hands frequently, maintain physical distance from those outside of your household.