Alberta Health Services hopes 45 per cent of Albertans will get their free immunization shot this season to protect against influenza.
Last year, 27 per cent of Albertans were immunized.
In Central Alberta, the rate was in to low to mid 20 per cent range.
“Influenza can be a severe disease in some people. It can kill people. Fortunately, we do have our vaccine available for everyone six months of age and older. While it’s not perfect, it certainly does reduce your chances of coming down with influenza,” said Dr. Digby Horne, medical officer of health with AHS Central Zone, on Monday on the opening day of immunization clinics across Alberta.
Those at risk for serious health problems from influenza are children younger than two and adults 65 and older; people with weakened immune systems; those with chronic illnesses such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes and cancer; and severely overweight individuals.
Last year, 109,014 doses of vaccine were administered in Central Zone and the zone had 620 lab-confirmed flu cases and four influenza-related deaths.
Horne said isolated cases of the flu are occurring now and that will typically increase significantly through the season. He encouraged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Some people think they won’t get infected. That may be true for 75 per cent of people. But if you’re the unlucky 25 per cent, you’ll get it,” he said at Red Deer’s first clinic held at Pidherney Centre.
The vaccine protects against two A influenza strains and one B strain. The nasal vaccine spray available for children age two to 17 protects against two A and two B strains.
The influenza vaccine does not protect against enterovirus, which arrived this fall in Alberta and causes breathing problems in severe cases for children.
Alberta Health Services says it is still trying to confirm if it’s the same strain that is causing paralysis-like symptoms in the United States.
As of Oct. 10, Central Zone had seen 14 confirmed enterovirus cases and 93 across the province.
Horne said the number of confirmed enterovirus cases is dropping in Alberta so whether enterovirus will complicate the flu season is unknown. He didn’t know of anyone with both infections at the same time.
“The best you can do is make sure kids are immunized and try and avoid (influenza) infection.”
He said there is enough vaccine for Albertans.
Flu vaccine is also available free from family physicians and at pharmacies.
Upcoming public immunization clinics in Red Deer include:
— Today and Nov. 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Pidherney Centre (former Red Deer Curling Centre), 4725 43rd St.
— Nov. 24, from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Pidherney Centre.
— Thursday, Nov. 5, 12, 13, 19 and 20, from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Red Deer iHotel, 6500 67th St.
— Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Westerner Park Harvest Centre, 4847A 19th St.
— Oct. 28, 29 and 30, from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Westerner Park Harvest Centre.
— Nov. 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Golden Circle, 4620 47A Ave.
— Nov. 8 and 22, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Red Deer First Christian Reformed Church, 16 McVicar St.
For information on clinics elsewhere in Central Alberta, visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/influenza.