Health officials bracing for an unpredictable flu season

As the typical flu season remains on the horizon, there’s little indication of what it could bring this year.

“It’s a difficult question because of all of the COVID measures that the public and our local community is currently taking, it can modify what our flu season looks like quite dramatically,” said Kristy Wright, Region of Waterloo Public Health's vaccine-preventable disease manager.

Public health measures in place for the pandemic are credited for a drop in flu cases last year, but experts say the season ahead is unpredictable.

The health unit confirmed there were no reported influenza cases in Waterloo Region in 2020.

“We are bracing for a bit more of a busy flu season this year just knowing that,” said Wright.

She says because of no cases in 2020, immunity may also be down.

“Some immunity can carry over from season to season and because we had no flu cases last season, people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that," she said.

While experts say the number of cases could be down again, they are still encouraging people to get a flu shot when they become available.

That’s usually by the end of September for those who are high-risk.

“We need to do the best that we can to prevent influenza from adding into what we are already experiencing,” said Connie Phillion, a Kitchener pharmacy owner. “Flu shot and preventative measures is really our best bet to protect ourselves.”

There are also timelines to consider if you’re getting both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot.

“Wait 28 days after having a COVID vaccine to receive your flu vaccine and if you receive your flu vaccine first and you still need to receive a COVID vaccine, then wait 14 days,” said Wright.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician, said the wait time is because if someone has a negative result or has some side effects to a vaccine, they would like to know which vaccine it’s related to.

The flu shot will be available at doctor’s offices and in pharmacies in Waterloo Region.