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Sudbury health unit urging medical professionals to maximize flu vaccine program

Physicians encouraged to take extra precautions in accordance with COVID-19 conditions

Sudbury's health unit has issued a guidance alert to area physicians on the importance of providing influenza vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The statement from Public Health Sudbury and Districts was released Tuesday afternoon, under the signature of Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health. 

"Reducing the burden of influenza is particularly important this fall and winter to prevent an increase in health care utilization alongside a potential resurgence of COVID-19 activity,” said the statement. "This fall, please consider immunization strategies that maximize vaccine uptake while safeguarding the health of your patients, your staff, and yourself."

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) advises that priority should be given to providing influenza vaccine to persons at high risk of influenza complications and those capable of transmitting infection to them. 

“I am sending you this Advisory Alert to share key recommendations from a recent document entitled Guidance for Influenza Vaccine Delivery in the Presence of COVID-19, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada in consultation with the Canadian Immunization Committee and NACI,” said the statement.  

The document included several recommendations for planning for the fall influenza vaccination clinics and services. The statement encouraged physicians to  consider a range of strategies to deliver influenza vaccine with the goals of:

Maintaining physical distancing;-reducing pre-immunization wait times; 

Reducing the mixing of well and ill individuals; -building efficiencies into immunization services (i.e. asking clients to wear accessible clothing, limiting the number of support persons attending or waiting with patients and having a designated clinic entrance and exit [if possible] to maximize traffic flow); 

Having separate areas for people to wait post-vaccination (preferably close to the exit).

The PHSD has also asked physicians to follow infection prevention and control practices with face coverings for staff and patients, providing alcohol hand sanitizers, and effective use of PPE (masks, eye protection, gowns and gloves, based on risk assessment). Vaccine providers are also being urged to step up environmental cleaning of all areas where the flu vaccine is being administered.

"This year, the demand for influenza vaccine may be higher than usual and may start earlier in the season. In anticipation of this, please also consider your patient communication strategies. Knowing when and how to expect vaccine services and understanding the measures you are taking to ensure their safety may deflate patient fears and reduce the number of calls to your office. This can be done through voice recordings or phone calls, advance email or text messaging, and your website and social media platforms," said the statement from the health unit.