Alberta announces plan to immunize people against seasonal and swine flu

Alberta says it will begin protecting some high-risk people against seasonal flu later this month before starting to immunize people against the swine flu, likely in November.

All Albertans, particularly those at high risk, are being asked to get two flu shots this fall.

In a joint press release issued on Thursday, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health and Wellness announced that seasonal influenza shots will be made available, free of charge, starting later this month.

Administration of seasonal shots will be temporarily suspended in mid-November, when the two agencies anticipate that the H1N1 shots will become available, said John Tuckwell, communications officer for Alberta Health and Wellness.

In an unusual move, the province has set up a series of mass immunization clinics where people can get their seasonal flu shots. There will be 11 clinics in Red Deer alone, starting on Oct. 26 at Westerner Park’s Harvest Centre.

Clinics have been set up in smaller centres as well and both the seasonal and H1N1 shots will be made available to people living in extended care centres as well as those who are receiving home care.

Clinic schedules for the H1N1 shots are to be announced at the end of this month, said Don Stewart, communications officer with Alberta Health Services.

Detailed information about times and locations of immunization clinics can be found on the Alberta Health Services website, said Stewart. He advised that people go through the links from the home page at albertahealthservices.ca to get their information.

Alberta Health Link at 1-866-408-5465 will also have details, he said. However, officials anticipate that the phone lines will be exceedingly busy and so prefer that people get their information from the website if they are able.

Seasonal and H1N1 shots are being made available for everyone over six months of age. Groups considered most at risk if they contract the flu include:

• People 65 and older;

• People who live in continuing care or designated assisted living;

• Health care workers employed in continued care or designated living centres;

• Children and adults with chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes;

• Expectant mothers;

• Healthy children between six months to two years old.

Tuckwell said H1N1 seems to be causing fewer symptoms among older adults, but cautions that they can still get sick.

Besides immunization, officials recommend a number of practices that can help avoid transmission of the flu virus.

They include washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based cleanser, covering coughs and sneezes with your arm or with a tissue and staying home and resting when symptoms occur.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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