A Victoria firefighter receives influenza vaccination in 2012. (B.C. government photo)

A Victoria firefighter receives influenza vaccination in 2012. (B.C. government photo)

Limited supply of high-dose flu vaccine available to central Albertans

Only select Central Albertans will be eligible to receive the Fluzone high-dose influenza vaccine.

In an email statement Wednesday, Alberta Health said the province received about 400,000 doses of the high-dose vaccine.

Alberta Health Services Central Zone said in an email they’ve only received a limited supply of that vaccine and it will be available to those 65 and older in an AHS operated long-term care facility – as well at some public health clinics for anyone 65 and older who has family or household members with children under five years of age; individuals who do not have a provincial health care number and individuals who live in a community where there are no other immunizing health care providers.

“We encourage people 65 and older to call pharmacies in their communities to check on availability as the doses are dispersed in small amounts across the province. This is to ensure access for as many Albertans as possible,” Alberta Health said in a statement.

While a limited supply of the high-dose vaccine is available for free, both Alberta Health and AHS are encouraging seniors to get whichever vaccine is available as soon as possible.

As of Wednesday, the province has recorded three cases of influenza in the 2021-22 flu season, with none in the Central zone. All three are related to international travel.

Alberta didn’t have a recorded case of influenza last flu season.

“The situation is slightly different but we shouldn’t lose sight that influenza is still a threat. Last year we had zero cases in Alberta and we attribute that to all the measures that were in place with all the public health restrictions… masking and (limits) on social gatherings,” said Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, Central Zone medical officer of health.

“With us removing some of those public health restrictions and COVID vaccines coming onto the scene, that means our risk for getting infected with the flu virus is slightly higher than it was last year.

“That’s why we’re still advocating for people to get the flu vaccine. It is safe, you can get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine, there is no interaction between the two.”

Last year’s unique flu season was also in part due to record high immunization against the virus, when about 1.65 million Albertans rolled up their sleeves and received the vaccine. So far, this flu season about 770,739 doses have been administered, including 74,202 in the Central zone.

“The more people we have immunized for the flu, the better. We know by keeping the flu cases down, we’re also protecting our health care system. Right now, COVID is causing us a lot of strain and we don’t want any additional strain coming from influenza,” Dr. Achebe said.

She added that it’s not likely Central Alberta or the province as a whole will see a flu season like last year, due to the eased public health measures this year.

Still, she explained there are easy ways to keep safe this flu season.

“The other measures we keep preaching, stay home when sick. Wear your mask, practice physical distancing and hand hygiene and cover your face when you cough. They all work for the flu and other respiratory viruses,” she said.

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