Almost 60 per cent of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre staff got the influenza vaccine, above the Central Alberta average of 53.7 per cent.
While Coronation and Daysland hospitals led the Alberta Health Services Central Zone, with 76 and 75 per cent immunization rates respectively, as of Jan. 14, 59 per cent of Red Deer hospital staff got the flu shot.
Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health for the AHS Central Zone, said that the 59 per cent is an increase from the rate on Jan. 6 when 54 per cent of Red Deer hospital AHS staff had been immunized.
“We’re still not where we’d like it to be,” said Achebe. “The influenza vaccination is still voluntary for health-care workers and as much as we try to spread the message of how important it is for us to get immunized, it is still a personal choice.”
Other Central Alberta hospitals had varying immunization rates. The lowest was in Ponoka, where 44 per cent of AHS employees at the hospital had been immunized. In Stettler, it was 52 per cent, Lacombe was 53 per cent, Rimbey and Olds were at 54 per cent, Rocky Mountain House was at 57 per cent and Innisfail was 69 per cent.
There are no doses of the flu vaccine available for the public through AHS. Achebe said private facilities, such as pharmacies, may have some doses left. What vaccine is left is for children who need their second dose and for an emergency reserve in case of outbreaks in health-care centres or continuing care centres.
Achebe said they may get more vaccine in the future.
“Having the experience this year, of course we learned from it,” she said. “We try as much as possible to make next year better than this year.”
As of Jan. 15, there have been 10 deaths in Alberta as a result of the seasonal flu. While there were none in the Central Zone as a result of the seasonal flu, the death of a Red Deer nurse was linked to avian flu.
During the flu season, there have been 357 reported cases of seasonal flu in the Central Zone, of which 35 were hospitalized, four in the intensive care unit. Across the province, there have been 2,220 confirmed cases of the seasonal flu.
“It’s more severe this year and affecting younger people,” said Achebe.
“Influenza is still very much around in our communities. We’re hoping that between now and the end of January will be the peak and we should take all the necessary precautions to ensure we minimize the spread.”
Achebe said people should still practise precautionary measures. They should cover their coughs, clean hands and if you are sick, you should stay at home.
In Alberta, more than one million people received the vaccination this year. More than four million people live in the province.