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Tamara getting flu shot from Suhil
Tamara Dus, Director of Occupational Health at UHN, receives her annual flu vaccination from Occupational Health nurse Suhil Rahman. (Photo: UHN)

It's that time of the year again – UHN's Flu Campaign gets underway today.

However, the 2020 campaign, like so many things in our lives will look a little different as flu season overlaps with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike COVID-19, the flu is a familiar foe, and vaccination is an essential tool in the fight against it.

"Every year, the flu vaccine plays a vital role in keeping ourselves, our families, our co-workers and our patients safe," says Tamara Dus, Director of Occupational Health at UHN.

"This year, it's more important than ever that TeamUHN gets vaccinated to make sure that we all stay well and healthy."

While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many crucial benefits of being immunized. Not only have flu vaccines been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death, especially among higher-risk populations, getting the vaccine can also save our healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

"We are all concerned about the second wave of COVID-19," says Dr. Susy Hota, Manager of Infection Prevention and Control at UHN. "So why wouldn't we want to do all we can to prevent all respiratory infections?

"It's not flu vs. COVID-19, it's us vs. the viruses!"

Last year was a record-breaking one for our Flu Campaign at UHN, with more members of TeamUHN getting vaccinated than ever before.

"We are very proud of our colleagues for playing their part in keeping us all safe last year," says Tamara.

"Lets's aim for another record-breaking year."

fight the flu
Prevent, Protect, Vaccinate. The 2020 Flu Campaign at UHN runs from Oct 13. to Nov 6. (Image: Visual Services, UHN)

Prevent, Protect, Vaccinate

Unlike previous years, to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, there will be no stationary flu cart in the lobby.

For TeamUHN members, getting a flu vaccine at work can be done in one of three ways this year:

  • Staff can schedule an appointment with Occupational Health to get a flu vaccine
  • Managers can book a flu cart to visit their unit and support staff at that location at a specific date and time. This service is available across all UHN sites by emailing Heather.Pattenden@uhn.ca
  • There will be roaming flu carts for TeamUHN members at all sites. Please check the weekly What's Happening Now at UHN email starting on Oct.16 for times and locations

TeamUHN members who choose to get the vaccine outside of the hospital must inform Occupational Health and provide evidence of vaccination. Staff are asked to send supporting documentation that includes their name, DOB, date of vaccine and who provided the vaccination to Occupational Health at OHSmailbox@uhn.ca, or submit documentation to a flu nurse. For a full list of pharmacies that offer the flu vaccine, check the website myflushot.ca and Toronto Public Health.

One thing that has not changed this year is that those who get the vaccine still get a full-size chocolate bar. Staff who have been vaccinated outside of the hospital can collect their chocolate bar from Occupational Health at their respective site.

What to do if you develop flu like symptoms

If you are feeling sick, the message is clear. Stay home. As symptoms of COVID-19 mimic those of the flu, TeamUHN members who develop flu-like symptoms are required to self isolate. Please inform your manager that you will not be at work and contact the Occupational Health COVID-19 hotline at 416-340-3556 or by filling out the electronic request form to speak with a nurse.

If you develop symptoms while at work, call the Occupational Health clinic nearest you. If the clinic is closed, follow the steps listed above and either call the COVID-19 hotline or fill out the online request form. You must then advise your manager you will be leaving work. After you have been assessed by a member of the Occupational Health team, you will be required to leave the building immediately.

Please refer to the Occupational Health staff screening document for more information on recognizing symptoms and what do if you develop them.

Who is most at risk of developing complications related to the flu?

While most healthy adults feel miserable for a few days, for some people, influenza can be serious or life threatening. Those most at risk include:

  • Adults age 65 and over
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • Pregnant women
  • Children under the age of five
  • People who are obese
  • People with chronic medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, among others
  • Residents of long-term care facilities 

Getting vaccinated against influenza will provide some protection against you getting influenza. Given that the vaccine isn't perfect, and that multiple other viruses, including COVID-19, can cause similar illness, it is important that we don't just rely on the flu vaccine for protection.

What else can I do to stay healthy this flu season?

Limiting the spread of respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 is everyone's responsibility and everyone benefits from transmission prevention measures.

  • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently
  • Wear a mask
  • Social distance. If you can't avoid close contact with people, wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when caring for them
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands
  • If you are sick with symptoms of the flu or any respiratory virus, you should not be at work, even if you had the flu vaccine this year.

Over 65 years of age?

This year, Fluzone High-Dose vaccine for staff over the age of 65 will be available through the Occupational Health Clinics.

Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza.

Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu vaccines. The additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response (more antibody) in the person getting the vaccine.

If you are a staff member over the age of 65 who wishes to obtain Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, please contact the Occupational Health and Safety clinic at your site to make an appointment.

Read more frequently asked questions about the flu and the vaccine

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