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FAMILY-FRIENDLY FLU VACCINE

- Health Unit Promotes New Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine Option Available to Children and Teens, as Flu Vaccine Season Gets Underway -

This year’s flu vaccine provides more choice and better protection for young children and teenagers, two selling features that local health officials are promoting to families in the area.

A nasal spray flu vaccine is now available for children two to 17 years of age, as an alternative to the normal flu shot given with a needle. According to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, the nasal spray flu vaccine may be a good alternative to the normal flu shot, especially for children between the ages of two and five years who may be fearful of needles.

“We want to make it as easy and convenient as possible for parents and caregivers to protect their children against the flu, and now they have more options,” says Marianne Rock, Manager of Communicable Disease Control, Epidemiology and Evaluation with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Both the nasal spray flu vaccine and the regular flu shot available to children and teenagers work equally well, and this year, they provide broader protection against four flu viruses instead of just three.”

The Ontario government is not providing the nasal spray flu vaccine to adults or seniors citizens this year, Rock adds. Instead, regular flu shots given by needles will be available for adults, providing protection against the three flu viruses most likely to circulate this flu season.

“When there is a good match between the flu vaccine and the circulating flu strains, people’s risk of getting sick from influenza is greatly reduced,” she says. “People who get the flu shot can still get sick from influenza, but if they do, it is usually milder than if they had not been vaccinated. “

There are many places in Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes to get flu vaccine this fall and winter. In November, the Health Unit is holding community flu vaccine clinics in Port Hope, Cobourg, Roseneath, Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and Minden to anyone six months of age and older. People should bring their Ontario health card to these clinics.

In addition, more than 40 pharmacies in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes have been approved by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to provide flu vaccine for anyone over the age of five years. People can call their local pharmacy to see if flu vaccine is being provided, or visit www.hkpr.on.ca for a complete list of approved pharmacies.

Local residents should also check with their health care providers and Family Health Teams, as many of them are providing flu vaccines too.

The flu is a preventable, but serious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Each year, the flu is linked to 200,000 doctors’ visits and 1,000 hospitalizations in Ontario. Young children, older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems are most at risk of suffering serious complications from influenza. “Flu vaccine is free to everyone in Ontario six months of age and older,” notes Rock. “Costs are covered by the provincial government, which sees it as a good investment given that flu vaccine reduces the risk of people getting sick and can save health care costs in the long run.”

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For media inquiries, contact:

Marianne Rock, Manager, Communicable Disease Control, Epidemiology & Evaluation, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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