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Why not get flu vaccine?

Why on earth should Alberta’s health minister have to plead with the public to get the flu vaccine?

And why aren’t health-care workers required to get the shot — or at least follow the lead of B.C., where health workers are required to either get the shot or wear a mask?

Maybe the question is: Why would health-care workers not get the flu vaccine?

Understandably, there may be some individuals who cannot get a flu shot. But the fact that 49 per cent of Alberta health-care workers are not vaccinated this year is alarming.

The number for the general population is even more dumbfounding.

Health Minister Fred Horne says only 800,000 (one in five) of a total of four million Albertans have received the flu shot this season. This might increase now as more people comprehend that, like every year, the flu does kill thousands of Canadians, sadly perhaps one of their own loved ones.

And yet with a vaccine with the right strains, like this year’s, Alberta Health says flu immunization prevents sickness in 70 to 90 per cent of healthy individuals.

Recent reports of flu-related deaths in Alberta — at least 10 and counting — have caught the attention of the public, and more people are suddenly lining up.

Last week, Horne encouraged people to get the influenza vaccine, which is available to the end of March. It takes a couple of weeks to be fully effective once a person gets it.

The vaccine protects against three strains of the flu. This season, one of those strains is the H1N1 virus, which is by far causing the most illnesses this season. Of 965 confirmed cases of flu in the province since the beginning of 2014, 920 are H1N1.

In Central Alberta, since the end of December, there have been 83 lab-confirmed flu cases, of which 79 were H1N1.

These numbers only represent cases confirmed in the lab. They have been described as just the tip of the iceberg as tests aren’t done on most people.

It is flu season and health authorities are not suggesting anyone panic, as the situation is not far off normal. But there are more people sicker than normal from the flu.

People between the ages of 20 and 65 are the most susceptible to H1N1.

Hospitals are getting busier as more people with flu-like symptoms are showing up. That means that more health-care workers are dealing with people sick with the flu, and they themselves are being exposed to it.

I’ve said it before and I say it again — vaccinations save lives and the naysayers are full of nonsense.

There are people in other parts of the world wishing they had the health system we have, and free access to vaccinations.

Sometimes we are so damn spoiled we don’t know a good thing even when it’s free, like the flu vaccine.

A flu shot not only protects the health worker, it also protects those who are ill and already susceptible.

Is it heavy-handed to have Alberta Health insist health-care workers get the vaccine or wear a mask if they don’t?

No, it’s just common sense.

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by phone at 403-314-4332 or by email at



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