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New onus on health-care workers as flu-vaccine clinics get underway

Oct 23 2012
Monica Gosal, right, administers a flu shot to Mary Hoyt on Monday at the Les Passmore Centre in Saanich. 

Monica Gosal, right, administers a flu shot to Mary Hoyt on Monday at the Les Passmore Centre in Saanich.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com

 When Corinne Geeza of Saanich attended the season’s first flu-vaccine clinic Monday, she was helping a senior friend but ended up helping herself — and others.

For the first time, the  51-year-old Geeza received a flu shot.

And she got it for free. Public-health nurses explained that her regular volunteer work with seniors makes her a high-risk individual. But that risk is borne by the vulnerable seniors Geeza might infect while trying to help.

“It’s not really about me,” she said.

Public-health nurses began vaccinations Monday as the Vancouver Island Health Authority opened a series of free flu shot clinics, starting with the Saanich Silver Threads at the Les Passmore Centre. The clinics will continue.

Flu shots, which cost $15 to $30 in a pharmacy, are available free to people deemed high risk or vulnerable. That includes those older than 65, people with chronic health conditions, health-care workers and residents of chronic-care facilities.

To Geeza , the inoculation made even more sense the more she thought about it. She works in retail, in a bedding store that sells quilts. So she sees a constant stream of people who might be spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, thinking of others, Geeza said she comes into regular contact with lots of small children when she worships at the Church of the Nazarene in Esquimalt. And she learned she could be spreading the virus days before feeling  sick.

“And when you are around little kids, they just jump all over so you don’t have any choice” about close contact, she said.

Flu season in B.C. typically runs from mid-November to April.

According to past statements by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, it typically kills 600 to 800 people in B.C. a year. Most of those are people considered vulnerable — for example, the elderly or those suffering from chronic health conditions.

Nurses and health-care workers have been told that they must either  get a flu shot (offered free at work) or wear a mask while treating patients this flu season.

Provincial health officials made the decision in response to the historically low rate of vaccinations among nurses and health-care workers of 50 per cent or less.

Dr. Dee Hoyano, VIHA’s medical health officer, said officials hope vaccination rates improve this year.

“We would like to see everyone in a high risk to be vaccinated,” Hoyano said.

Some people, however, believe a shot can give a person the flu. This is untrue since the vaccine is made with a virus that has been killed.

“I’m hopeful we will see more vaccines given out and a better vaccination rate,” Hoyano said.

For information about flu shots, including who is eligible for free shots and where clinics will be held, see the website viha.ca/flu. For information about the flu and the vaccine, check out immunizebc.ca.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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