Ontario announces the largest flu shot campaign in Canada's history

Ontario's provincial government wants you to get a flu shot this year. Like, really, really badly — to the point where they're spending $70 million to deliver what Premier Doug Ford calls "the largest and most comprehensive flu campaign in Canada's history."

Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott spoke to the importance of getting immunized against influenza during a press conference at Queen's Park on Tuesday.

The hope is that, by limiting the number of people who become seriously ill with the flu this year, hospital capacity can be maintained when the inevitable second wave of COVID-19 hits (if it hasn't already.)

"We've ordered 5.1 million doses for the entire province and we're working to order even more," said Ford. "Anyone who wants a flu shot can get one, and I encourage everyone to please get their flu shot this year. It's absolutely critical."

On Monday, the province had promised to release a comprehensive plan of action for the next phase of the ongoing pandemic on Tuesday.

We learned today that the plan is called "Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19" and that one of its key pillars revolves around widespread adoption of the flu shot.

The rest, says Ford, will be rolled out slowly in the coming days because it's too complex for Ontarians to understand everything all at once.

"Given the size and scope of this plan we will take the next few days to walk through it," said Ford, later telling a reporter who questioned the logic that "if we just ram it down on the table and start rolling it all out, it's just not going to be absorbed by the people out there."

Elliott went into slightly more detail regarding what we can expect from the plan, outlining six goals.

A release from the province states that the yet-to-be-released Keeping Ontarians Safe plan will:

  • Maintain strong public health measures, including continued expansion of testing and case and contact management;
  • Quickly identify, manage and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks;
  • Accelerate efforts to reduce health service backlogs;
  • Prepare for surges in COVID-19 cases;
  • Recruit, retain, train and support health care workers, while also continuing to engage families and caregivers; and
  • Implement the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario's history.

The flu bit is first and foremost on the list, as the shot has been linked to a reduction in visits to emergency rooms and doctors offices.

Last year, influenza was responsible for 280 deaths and 5,719 hospitalizations in Ontario. We don't need that on top of a resurgence of COVID-19, new cases of which reached 478 on Tuesday morning — the highest daily increase we've seen since early May.

Elliott couldn't provide an exact release date for the 2020 flu shot, but said it should be available at doctors' offices and pharmacies "in the coming weeks."

"While our best defense continues to be our everyday actions to stop the spread, like practising physical distancing, wearing face masks and staying home when ill, we have developed a plan that prepares us for any eventuality, including the approaching flu and cold season," she said.

"We all have a part to play, and it starts with everyone getting their flu shot this year, so please, please make sure you get yours," said Ford. "It's never been more important... there's are no excuses."

Lead photo by

Katja Fuhlert

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