Southern Health is launching its flu shot clinics this week.

The first clinic of the season happens on Wednesday in St. Jean. The last clinic takes place on November 28th in Winkler. 

Dr. Davinder Singh is Medical Officer of Health for the region. He says you do not need to wait for a clinic to get your flu shot, noting both the flu shot and the COVID-19 updated vaccine should already be widely available at medical clinics or pharmacies. Dr. Singh says public health clinics are also stocking the pneumococcal pneumonia shot for those who are eligible.

Dr. Singh says anyone who is six months of age and older is eligible and encouraged to receive the updated version of both the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine. He explains the flu shot changes every year and the updated version will help against the strain that is expected to circulate that year. 

According to Dr. Singh, this year's shot is expected to guard against two strains of influenza A: H1N1 and H3N2. He notes in the Southern Hemisphere this year they experienced mainly the H1N1 influenza, which typically impacts younger children and those in the highest priority groups that are at higher risk for severe disease. Dr. Singh says the flu vaccine also guards against the two main strains of influenza B. 

As for the COVID-19 vaccine, it has been formulated to provide better protection against XBB.1.5, which is an offshoot of the omicron variant.

Dr. Singh says for those who should be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot, the high-priority group is the same. He notes it is generally recommended for those aged 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities or other congregate living settings and individuals with certain underlying medical conditions that place them at a higher risk such as immunocompromising conditions or conditions that impact their lungs or heart. Others in the high-priority group include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, individuals from Indigenous communities and individuals who are providing services to any of those higher-risk groups. 

Dr. Singh notes the biggest difference is that children under the age of five are at a higher risk of getting the flu, and that risk is generally not there for COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Singh says in 2022 about 27 per cent of Manitoba's population was immunized against the flu. He anticipates a similar percentage in 2023. However, he notes it appears that the peak for flu vaccine uptake happened in the first year of the pandemic and has been slowly dropping each year since. Dr. Singh says prior to the pandemic, only about 20 to 23 per cent of Manitobans received their flu shot. 

In Manitoba, about 60 per cent of individuals aged 65 and older received their flu shot last year. Dr. Singh reminds them that they are also eligible to get their high-dose flu shot, which has four times as much of the component which creates the immune response against the flu. 

Click here for the complete list of flu shot clinics within Southern Health. 


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