FREDERICTON (GNB) – The publicly funded seasonal flu vaccine is now available in the province.

“Vaccination is important in decreasing the complications associated with seasonal influenza, especially for those people most vulnerable due to age or health conditions,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health. “I encourage all New Brunswickers, especially those who are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from influenza, to protect themselves and get immunized.”

The Department of Health encourages all health-care workers, such as physicians and nurses, to continue to be a partner in protection by getting vaccinated against the flu and encouraging their patients to do the same.

Each year the strains of seasonal influenza viruses change. As a result the flu vaccine needs to also change each year to ensure it protects against the current viruses.

Seasonal influenza typically poses serious health risks to the elderly, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions. This year, the vaccine is available for free to the following residents, through a variety of immunization providers and programs:

  • adults and children with chronic health conditions:
    • cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma);
    • diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases;
    • cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy);
    • renal disease;
    • anemia or hemoglobinopathy;
    • neurologic or neurodevelopment conditions (including seizure disorders, febrile seizures and isolated developmental delay in children and neuromuscular, neurovascular, neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental conditions and seizure disorders in adults, but excluding migraines and neuropsychiatric conditions without neurological conditions);
    • conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration;
    • morbid obesity (with a body mass index of 40 or more); and
    • children and adolescents (6 months to 18 years old) undergoing treatment for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid, because of the potential increase of Reye’s syndrome associated with influenza.
  • people of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities;
  • people who are 65 or older;
  • healthy children 6 months to 18 years old;
  • pregnant women;
  • aboriginal people; and
  • people capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk:
    • household contacts (adults and children) of individuals at high risk of influenza-related complications (whether or not the individual at high risk has been immunized), as listed above;
    • household contacts of infants less than 6 months old;
    • household contacts of children 6 months to 59 months old;
    • members of a household expecting a newborn during the influenza season; and
    • health-care workers.

All healthy people 19 to 64 years old who do not have contraindications to influenza vaccine are also encouraged to receive influenza vaccine.

“The flu should not be underestimated, as it leads to hospitalizations and deaths every year,” said Russell. “The best way to protect yourself and loved ones is through immunization.”

During the 2015-16 influenza season, there were more than 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza; 250 influenza-related hospitalizations, including 56 patients admitted to intensive care units; and 20 deaths due to illness associated with influenza.

More information is available online or by contacting a health-care provider.