H1N1 clinics reopen for young children only

H1N1 vaccination clinics will reopen on Thursday in Alberta — but vaccine will only be given to children aged six months to under five years.

H1N1 vaccination clinics will reopen on Thursday in Alberta — but vaccine will only be given to children aged six months to under five years.

On Friday, immunization will expand to include pregnant women.

The location and hours of operation of clinics in Red Deer and Central Alberta were not yet available from Alberta Health Services.

Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta Health Services’ Senior Medical Officer of Health, said children and pregnant women are the only risk groups who will be given the vaccine on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and possibly a few days longer.

“If you do not fit into these two risk groups, please do not come to the clinics because you will be turned away,” Predy said on Tuesday at a press conference in Edmonton to announce the reopening of the clinics.

On Saturday, Alberta Health Services shut down vaccination clinics due to a dwindling national supply of the vaccine.

Alberta has about 200,000 doses of the vaccine left from last week’s campaign and this week is expecting 80,000 doses, including 28,000 of non-adjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women.

Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said there is enough vaccine for these two risk groups so parents don’t have to rush out with their children first thing Thursday morning.

Young children and pregnant women are identified as at risk of severe flu complications, which is why they will receive the vaccine, he said.

Children will require proof of age from an Alberta Health Care card, birth certificate or other valid identification. Pregnant women will not require proof of pregnancy.

“We will move to the other (risk) groups only once we have a better understanding of how much vaccine we’ll receive next week,” said Corriveau.

When more vaccine becomes available, the campaign will be expanded to people under 65 with chronic health conditions.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Health Services’ website had not yet listed Red Deer or any Central Alberta clinics.

“In the rural areas, we do move from one community to another. It’s hard to give you a picture of the overall plan, but all those sites will be posted on the website albertahealthservices.ca,” Predy said.

Immunization clinics are scheduled to start or resume at 14 sites in Edmonton and Calgary on Thursday.

The new strategy is a major change for Alberta Health Services, which had been saying that offering the vaccine to everyone would mean fewer people would be able to spread the virus.

Health officials would not estimate when the vaccine would be available to the general public.

Last week in Red Deer, people waited five to seven hours in line for vaccination. Predy said the objective is to ensure people do not have to wait longer than an hour.

“We know it’s not appropriate to have pregnant women and young children wait for a long time in line. By Thursday, we will have a number of strategies in place to help with that.”