By Korie Marshall

The Province is urging British Columbians to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting a flu vaccine this season.

Clinics are now open throughout the province, and vaccinations are free for many residents such as young children, seniors and people with chronic health conditions, but this year, anyone planning to visit a loved one in a health-care facility, or anyone who takes someone to an outpatient appointment is also being asked to get vaccinated before they come.

“Help us protect patients by getting vaccinated before you come to a health-care centre,” a spokesperson from the ministry told the Goat. She says if you haven’t been vaccinated, you will be required to wear a mask.

British Columbians can get immunized at a wide variety of locations – from dedicated flu clinics, to their doctor’s offices or local pharmacists.

Flu shots are free in BC for all children aged six months to five years of age, seniors 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and Aboriginal people, as well as individuals with chronic health conditions, compromised immune systems, or those who work or live with individuals with a higher risk of complications from the flu. Anyone planning to visit a loved one in a health-care facility or those who take family members to outpatient appointments just needs to mention their situation to be eligible for a free flu shot.

Influenza can be a serious illness. Each year between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die from its complications – most of them seniors or those with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis.

All health authorities have implemented an influenza control policy that mandates health-care workers to be vaccinated or wear a mask during flu season, which typically runs from December to April. Health authorities are also expecting the public to protect vulnerable patients from contracting influenza by getting vaccinated, or wearing a mask.

British Columbians who are ineligible for the free vaccine are able to purchase it for a small fee. In addition, many workplaces offer the vaccine to their employees at onsite clinics.

Flu shots are available at the Valemount Health Unit (phone: 250-566-9138 ext 4228), Golden Years Lodge (phone: 250-566-4837) and the McBride Health Unit (phone: 250-569-2251, ext. 2026)