Manitoba Health is providing an update to Manitobans about respiratory viruses expected to circulate in the province over the coming months, as well as the provincial plan for COVID-19 and seasonal flu vaccinations.
COVID-19, flu and other respiratory viruses will be circulating this fall and winter. Manitobans can take important steps to help protect themselves, their families and their community. This should include vaccination against flu and COVID-19, as well as good handwashing, cough and sneeze hygiene, staying home when sick and choosing to wear a mask.
Manitobans are reminded the respiratory virus season is expected to put demands on the health-care system because COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory viruses can result in serious and life-threatening illness for some people. Contingency planning is ongoing in case there is a significantly increased health threat from a new variant or pathogen.
Public health officials recommend all previously immunized people aged six months and older receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall. This vaccine should be given six months since a person’s last dose or infection, whichever is later. Public health also continues to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone who has not been previously immunized.
Updated vaccines will be available this fall and have been formulated to provide better protection against XBB.1.5, which is an offshoot of the omicron variant. To date, Health Canada has approved an updated Moderna vaccine for those six months of age and older and is reviewing updated Pfizer and Novavax vaccines.
Public health officials also recommend all eligible people (aged six months and older) receive a seasonal flu vaccine. The vaccine is formulated every year to protect against the strains of flu virus expected to circulate. Manitoba also recommends the high-dose flu vaccine for all people aged 65 and older. This vaccine provides older people who are at greater risk of severe illness with a stronger immune response and better protection against infection and serious symptoms.
Vaccination against COVID-19 and seasonal flu is particularly important for people at higher risk of severe outcomes including:
- adults 65 years of age or older;
- residents of long-term care homes or other congregate living settings;
- individuals with underlying medical conditions that place them at higher risk;
- individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding;
- individuals in or from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities;
- members of racialized and other equity-deserving communities; and
- people who provide essential community services.
All individuals 65 years and older are eligible to receive one dose of pneumococcal vaccine (Pneu-P-23), regardless of risk factors or previous pneumococcal vaccination. For more information, individuals should speak with their health-care provider.
Like previous years, the first doses of flu and COVID vaccines shipped to Manitoba will be used to immunize higher-risk populations including First Nations communities, people living in personal care homes or in hospital, as well as health-care workers.
Based on vaccine approvals and deliveries, the province expects the general public may begin to access vaccines by early to mid-October. Vaccines will once again be available at many convenient locations across the province including pharmacies, medical clinics, public health offices and immunization clinics organized by regional health authorities or in partnership with community organizations. Most locations will be posted on the province’s online vaccine finder as details are confirmed at www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/vaccine.html#finder. Information will also be available from local public health offices and posted in communities in the coming weeks.
It is safe and effective for people to receive more than one vaccine at a time. Manitobans who wish to be vaccinated will be able to make a single appointment and receive all vaccines they are eligible for. A single, streamlined consent form for flu, COVID-19 and pneumococcal vaccines will also be introduced this year.
People who have questions about COVID-19 or seasonal flu immunizations should speak with their health-care provider or call Health Links-Info Santé at 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) or 204-788-8200.
Rapid tests and PCR testing are only recommended for people who are high risk for serious outcomes as they need to know if they have COVID-19 to receive early treatment options such as antivirals. However, rapid test kits continue to be available at no cost at many locations across the province. For more information about testing, including an online map of locations where rapid tests may be available, visit www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/testing.html.
A weekly epidemiology update on COVID-19 and seasonal flu is posted every Friday to help Manitobans stay informed at www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/surveillance/influenza/index.html.
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