Premier Brian Pallister today added a point to the list of “fundamentals” that have become so familiar to Manitobans since the onset of COVID-19.

“Wash your hands, practice good hygiene, practice physical distancing, wear a mask, limit your gatherings, and now, more than ever, get your flu shot.”

The premier’s announcement outside the legislative building this morning beckoned in a new government campaign urging all Manitobans to get the flu vaccine. As the provincial government prepares for the great collision of influenza and the novel coronavirus, Pallister says distributing the influenza vaccine has never been more essential.

“We all have a role to play when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable citizens,” he says.

The annual campaign has been revamped this season to take into account the new health challenges posed by COVID-19. The tag line, ‘Add a Layer This Fall’, encourages people to add an extra layer of protection to ensure they themselves and their loved ones are as safe as possible from both viruses.  

“We’ve got to do what we can to limit that burden of respiratory illness this year,” stressed Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, who shared the stage with Pallister. As he would any other year, Roussin implores all Manitobans six months old and older to seek out immunization. He notes a record 26.3 per cent of Manitobans registered with Manitoba Health received the flu vaccine last year and hopes 2020 yields even higher numbers.

To illustrate the importance of the flu shots, Pallister rolled up his sleeves after the press conference concluded and allowed Roussin to inject him with the vaccination. 

Part of the government’s efforts to distribute the immunizations include increasing their availability. Enough shots have been ordered to vaccinate up to 40 per cent of all Manitobans whereas usually the order is placed for only 30 per cent of the population.

Roussin says the number of high-dose influenza vaccines ordered this year nearly double last year. This season roughly 21,500 doses have been ordered as opposed to 11,500 during 2019-2020. While these stronger shots are typically only offered to specific seniors of greater risk of influenza and its complications, this year the opportunity has been expanded to include several more groups of people. Anyone who is above 65 years old and is either living in assisted housing, living in an isolated community, living north of the 53rd parallel, newly incarcerated, or receiving home care services while on a waiting list for admission into a long-term care facility is also eligible.

Dispelling some common misconceptions, Roussin notes the flu shot does not make its recipients sick, nor does it offer any protection against the COVID-19 virus.

150,000 doses are right now in the process of being shipped to providers across the province. The full provincial vaccine allotment is expected to arrive over the course of the next several weeks.