Children, pregnant women and federal prisoners at Bowden Institution have something in common — they will be the only members of the public in Central Alberta who can access H1N1 vaccine over the next few days.
A vaccination program for front-line health care workers continues, but due to the national vaccine shortage, Alberta Health Services has limited public vaccine access to children aged six months to under five years at clinics open today. On Friday, clinics will be expanded to include pregnant women.
Clinics will continue to be open only to those two groups into next week because the province considers them to be at the highest risk of severe flu complications.
However, Corrections Canada is also making the vaccine available to federal prisoners who are identified to be in high-risk health groups by the Public Health Agency of Canada, like those under 65 with chronic health conditions.
Jillan Pranger, spokesperson with Corrections Canada, said the vaccine arrived at the Bowden prison on Tuesday and vaccinations will likely begin soon.
“They will probably start within the next few days, but I can’t say for sure,” Pranger said on Wednesday.
She said the federal government must provide inmates with the H1N1 vaccine just like it provides seasonal influenza immunization to inmates.
“The reason why we offer it to them is a requirement by law to provide essential health care.”
But providing vaccine to prison staff is outside the federal “realm of responsibility,” Pranger said. “We don’t have any legal authority over our staff members at all. The best we can do is recommend they go get vaccinated.”
Bowden Institution, a medium and minimum security facility, had 647 inmates as of Wednesday and about 400 staff.
Children eligible for vaccinations at community clinics starting today are those aged six months on the day of vaccination to under five years as of Nov. 1.
Children will require proof of age from an Alberta Health Care card, birth certificate or other valid identification.
The only exception for today’s vaccinations will be made for pregnant women who bring in children and are willing to be vaccinated with adjuvanted vaccine, which boosts the body’s immune response and increases the vaccine effectiveness.
On Friday, immunization expands to include pregnant women when non-adjuvanted vaccine will be available as a safety precaution for pregnancy.
Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta Health Services’ Senior Medical Officer of Health, said the vaccination campaign will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis to determine when other high-risk groups can access vaccine.