Editorial: Sure-shot offer

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While researchers work frantically on a COVID-19 vaccine, one potentially deadly virus is already mapped out.

Flu vaccines started to be available on the island last week, and even though health officials encourage widespread immunization each fall, this year it will be especially important to heed their advice. On Salt Spring, a huge cross-section of the health community has come together to make sure the process is as safe and easy as possible, even as the coronavirus pandemic has made access to doctors’ appointments more limited.

Even if COVID has yet to make a big impact on our island community, a bad flu season can be a grave concern. According to Immunize BC, thousands of people are hospitalized from influenza and its complications in Canada each year, and many may die during years with widespread flu activity. Getting the flu could also put people more at risk for other infections if their immune systems are low.

The negative financial impact of having to take time off work to recover from the flu could for many locals be worse than waiting for a COVID test result. High school students now working under the concentrated quarter system can hardly afford to miss a day of school, much less a week or two. Most of all, reducing the strain on the health-care system and the risk to people working in it will be crucial for managing the surging “second wave.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has recommended everyone who can get an immunization to do so by the beginning of November. Salt Spring’s community flu clinic, happening at the Gulf Islands Secondary School gym from Nov. 6 to 8, should make it easy to follow her advice. The clinic is available to anyone ages six months and up who qualifies for a free shot. Multiple appointment times will serve up to seven people at each session. Organizers are planning for a quick transit between sign-in and exit and the gym will provide all the space needed to keep stations at a safe distance.

With so many people eligible to be immunized for free, either through their own risk factors or through close contact to others, now is the time to take advantage of the offer.

Islanders should visit islandhealth.ca/flu to book an appointment ASAP.

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