Toronto Public Health says its flu shot clinics are now officially open to the public.
Flu shot clinics opened on Oct. 22, Toronto Public Health (TPH) announced Thursday. However, this year vaccine appointments will be made by online bookings only, as walk-in appointments are unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to TPH, these flu vaccine clinics will be available until the end of December due to higher demand for the vaccines this year.
To get the flu vaccine safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city recommends wearing masks when visiting the clinics, and not bringing friends and family members if they do not have an appointment.
“I encourage all residents to get their flu shot this year," said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement.
"This year’s Toronto Public Health flu vaccine clinics are more important than ever in the wake of COVID-19.”
The mayor took the flu shot on Thursday morning, along with the city’s health medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa, and board of health chair Joe Cressy.
The flu vaccine is free for individuals who are over six months of age, and live, work and attend school in Ontario, the health authority said.
“The flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, but it will protect you from the flu or reduce the severity of illness from the flu,” said a statement from the city.
On Sept. 22, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the province ordered 5.1 million flu vaccines—700,000 more than the previous year.
"It's important that we prepare for any scenario in order to protect all of our citizens, especially our seniors and most vulnerable,” Ford said.
According to TPH, the flu, also known as influenza, “can spread to others before symptoms even appear. The flu is spread from person to person by small droplets produced by a cough or sneeze or through contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects, similar to COVID-19.”
The common systems of flu include high fever, headache, cough, feeling tired, sore throat, loss of appetite, and muscle aches, which are similar to the COVID-19 symptoms.
“Getting vaccinated against the flu may also reduce the number of individuals who need COVID-19 testing as the symptoms are very similar,” TPH said.
De Villa said getting the flu shot can also prevent the health care system from getting overwhelmed.
“As we live with COVID-19, this action is more important than ever to protect our healthcare system and ensure that our health resources are available for those who need them most," she said in a statement.
On Oct. 20, the TPH reported a total of 346 new COVID-19 cases in Toronto, 258 recovered, 21 hospitalized and 1 death.
The percentage of COVID-19 positive cases per 100 individuals tested is 4.4 percent for the week of Oct. 11 to Oct. 17, compared to 3.2 percent from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10. According to de Villa, since the quarantine period is 14 days, it can take around two weeks to see if there is a decline in new infections.