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Flu vaccines will soon be available across Nova Scotia

Peter Bakes, pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe in the Truro Mall, will soon be offering flu shots again. He would like to see more people taking advantage of the free vaccines.
Peter Bakes, pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe in the Truro Mall, will soon be offering flu shots again. He would like to see more people taking advantage of the free vaccines. - Lynn Curwin
TRURO, N.S. —

The flu season is expected to arrive earlier this year but taking advantage of a free vaccine could prevent people from having to go through the miserable affliction.
“Flu shots are free to all and we recommend everyone get one,” said Dr. Ryan Sommers, medical officer of health for northern Nova Scotia. “They’re more effective some years than others but there’s always a benefit.
“The goal is to get those at high risk, and those with the capability to transmit the flu to them, vaccinated. The flu shot is effective in protecting the person who gets it, their family and friends, and the community – and it’s extremely safe.”
Canadian officials keep an eye on flu patterns in Australia to get an idea of what they might expect in North America. This year, the flu season started early, and the number of cases peaked in July, rather than August. Many of the cases were caused by the H3N2 virus. 
“That’s similar to what we had last year,” said Sommers. “When they know the main type of viruses expected, a vaccine is developed to target them.”
Peter Bakes, a pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe in the Truro Mall, noted flu vaccines don’t make people ill.
“You hear some people say they got sick after getting the vaccine, but that would be because they had the virus before coming in,” he said. “The vaccine has no live viruses, so you can’t get sick from it.”
It can take two weeks before the vaccine provides protection from the virus.
“Nova Scotia doesn’t have a high rate of people getting the vaccine, and we still have people dying from flu-related complications,” said Bakes. “We need enough people vaccinated to have herd immunity.”
Herd immunity takes place when enough people are vaccinated that the spread of disease is impeded and those who are not immunized also receive some protection.
Bakes, like other pharmacists who’ve taken the training, can give vaccines free of charge to people age five or older with a valid Nova Scotia health card. The vaccine is available to younger children through doctors and public health clinics.
“It’s rewarding to give something that’s a benefit to the public, and now it’s not necessary to tie up a doctor’s time with this,” he said. “It’s a very cost-effective vaccine because it keeps people out of hospital.”
Sommers said people at high risk of developing complications include those older than 65, pregnant women, children, those with particular chronic conditions, and Indigenous people.
“Flu can exacerbate chronic conditions and if people are at risk for strokes it can trigger them,” he said. “When flu season does hit, wash your hands often because the virus can be picked up from things like door knobs. If you’re sick, stay home.”
Flu vaccines are expected to be in pharmacies beginning Oct. 15.
Information on flu activity in Canada can be found on the Government of Canada FluWatch site.
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Flu symptoms:
High fever, sudden onset, lasts 3-4 days
Headache
Aches and pains
Fatigue and weakness
Runny, stuffy nose
Sore throat
Chest discomfort, coughing
Can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure

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