Island Health implements mask-up policy as peak flu season approaches

WatchIt's that time of the year again. Temperatures are dropping and people are getting sick all over the island. As Jasmine Bala reports, more people than usual are heading to clinics to get their flu shots this year.

Island Health is putting a policy into place for visitors to their facilities in an effort to fight back against the flu.

“We’re asking visitors to our hospitals and care facilities to hopefully have had your influenza vaccination already,” said Dee Hoyano, a medical health officer for Island Health. “And if you haven’t, we’re asking you to wear a mask when you’re in the facility.”

The masks are available near the entrance at all Island Health hospitals and long-term care facilities. Visitors are also able to sanitize their hands before putting the masks on.

“Basically what the mask does is try to prevent [the spread of] any droplets when you sneeze or you cough that can have the virus,” Hoyano explained. “It’s a layer of protection to help prevent infection.”

The biggest layer of protection, Hoyano added, is getting the flu shot.

This season has been busier than usual and Heart Pharmacy on Fairfield Road has run out of publicly funded flu shots even though peak flu season hasn’t even begun.

“The demand has been fairly high this year, so hence, the flu vaccines are difficult to get a hold of these days,” said Daniel Hong, pharmacist at Heart Pharmacy, noting that his pharmacy has already given out more than 1,000 flu shots this year.

Although free flu shots are no longer available at Heart Pharmacy, privately funded flu shots still are. This means you can still get your flu shot – it’s just going to cost you $25 or more.

However, the influenza vaccine is available free to people at high-risk, such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions, and those able to transmit or spread influenza to those at high risk. To find out if you are eligible, talk to your doctor or call HealthLinkBC at 811.

“It is still the best way of preventing yourself from getting the flu and hence you should still invest… into it,” Hong said.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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