Flu season is back in Ontario. As the weather cools down, and the first hint of winter makes an appearance, Canadians are rolling up their sleeves at clinics all across the country in the hopes that they can make it through the season without catching that dreaded flu. Vaccines have become a hot topic on daily talk shows and online forums. Many people have strong opinions on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
The Canadian Government takes an active role in monitoring contagious diseases and vaccine safety in our country. The Biologic and Genetic Therapies Directorate of Health Canada has a list of strict guidelines in place to regulate vaccines and promote safe medical procedures and practices in our country.
Vaccines are only approved by Health Canada after the manufacturers have provided sufficient evidence that they are safe and effective. Sometimes the testing phase can last for several years, but its hard establish concrete findings without a thorough examination. Health Canada also observes the manufacturing process to ensure that it meets the minimum requirements for quality control and consistency. The manufacturing facilities themselves are inspected and granted a license by the regulators.
Even after vaccines have been approved for use, regulators and public health authorities continue to monitor them for potential problems that might have gone unnoticed during the trail phase. Adverse reactions are documented and all data is reviewed by the governing body.
Health Canada monitors the flu virus and tracks the spread of the bug throughout the year. This year’s most common strain, known as H3N2, appears to be affecting seniors more than any other segment of the population. British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have had the highest number of hospitalizations from the flu so far this year.
Fluwatch is a program that acts as Canada’s national flu surveillance system. This program is supported by a network of hospitals, labs, and doctor’s offices. They release a report on a weekly basis that documents any changes in the virus and informs health care providers of relevant information pertaining to this year’s flu symptoms, trends and treatment. The information collected through this program is also used to update the annual flu vaccine to make sure it protects patients from the most recent strains. Member of the public can sign up for the weekly reports if they want to stay informed.
In addition to getting the flu shot, Health Canada reminds you to wash your hands regularly and stay home if you have flu-like symptoms to prevent the bug from spreading. Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated to keep your immune system working hard, and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy lifestyle.