Quebec public health launches flu shot campaign

Quebec's public health agency has launched an aggressive campaign to persuade more citizens to get the flu shot this year.

Canadians were hard hit by a vicious flu bug last year, and the head of public health for the province says the vaccination rate is simply too low in this province to to the most vulnerable.

"Flu is a very serious disease," said Quebec's director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda. "I think it's important to get your flu shot before the virus comes in, because it takes two weeks to get fully protected."

Arruda said that although around 300 people die from the flu annually in Quebec, many refuse to get vaccinated.

"Some people are afraid of the vaccines. They think that if they get the vaccine they're going to get sick," he said.

Arruda said that most people won't become seriously ill from the flu, however, it can be fatal for the elderly, the very young and those with chronic illness.

Only 25 per cent of young and middle-aged Quebecers with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes get the annual shot.

Among, that figure is just 40 per cent.

"Flu is a very specific disease and you have to have your flu shot every year," said Arruda. 

Last year the flu hit Canadians hard over the holiday season and Quebec had to open special clinics to ease overcrowding in emergency rooms.​

Arruda said that's part of the fallback plan this season too, but public health hopes the aggressive campaign will encourage more Quebecers to get vaccinated now to avoid a similar situation. 

The flu shot is free to babies and toddlers, anyone with a chronic illness and their families, as well as anyone aged 60 or older.

Arruda said public health authorities are trying to make it easier to get the shot, offering more drop-in vaccinations at CLSCs and allowing people to book appointments online.