Fewer Albertans rolling up their sleeves for the flu shot as influenza cases reappear

Alberta’s top doctor also encouraged Albertans to get immunized against influenza at Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

Kellen Taniguchi 3 minute read November 22, 2021

Alberta's influenza immunization campaign begins Monday, October 18, offering influenza vaccine to all Albertan six months of age and older free of charge, Handout Photo AHS jpg

After a winter when Alberta experienced zero cases of the flu, health officials say it’s making a reappearance this season.

So far this year, there have been four lab-confirmed influenza cases — three in the Edmonton Zone and one in the Calgary Zone — said Amanda Krumins, assistant communications director for Alberta Health.

Krumins said while it’s problematic to compare year-over-year influenza patterns until a full season’s data is complete, Alberta Health is seeing lower uptake of the flu vaccine this year.

“Although the influenza activity we are seeing right now is less than we would see in a typical season, we expect to see influenza and other respiratory viruses circulate in our communities this year,” she said. “We encourage all Albertans six months of age and older to get immunized against influenza.”

As of Friday afternoon, 850,283 flu shots have been administered — meaning 19.2 per cent of Albertans have rolled up their sleeve for the jab, said Krumins.

At this time last year, more than 1.2 million doses had been administered, covering 28 per cent of the population. More than a million doses were also administered at this point during the 2019-20 flu season, Krumins said.

She said there may be several contributing factors to the lower uptake, including vaccine fatigue.

Alberta’s top doctor also encouraged Albertans to get immunized against influenza at Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

“The good news is that there is still plenty of time to add getting the flu shot to our to-do list. It’s a free and easy way to protect your health and it’s more important now than ever,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

“While the flu is not as severe as COVID-19, it can be very serious for the very young and the very elderly and it can put additional pressure on our health-care system.”

Hinshaw said COVID-19 and influenza have similar symptoms, so getting a flu shot could reduce the likelihood of someone having symptoms that may cause them to have to stay home or get tested for COVID-19.

She said getting vaccinated against influenza affects more than just the person getting jabbed and the shot can be administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I would ask that all of us encourage our family, our friends, our neighbours to step up and be vaccinated, not just for themselves but also for our community,” said Hinshaw.

Flu shot appointments can be made online at Alberta Health Services website, a local pharmacy or by calling 811.

There were zero confirmed flu cases last season due in large part to the COVID-19 public health measures in place, but many of those measures have since been relaxed.