Province set to roll out vaccine for flu season
The province’s healthcare system is set to do combat with a flu season that could be less severe than the last one.
Early indications from other parts of the world suggest this year’s months-long bout could be milder than last season’s, which saw 92 people die in Alberta from flu-involved illnesses.
“It was more of a milder season in the southern hemisphere so if that translates, it’ll help,” said Alberta Health Services spokesman Bruce Conway.
Even so, AHS officials say it’s just as important to be vaccinated to increase the odds of warding off the virus, with the immunization campaign kicking off Monday at clinics across the province.
“It is important to get immunized early in the season,” said Dr. Christopher Sikora, acting senior medical officer of health for AHS.
“You may be healthy now but without immunization, everyone is at risk. Prevention is your only protection.”
The 2016-17 season saw 64 fatalities from the flu in Alberta, with 1,653 people hospitalized. In 201718 there were 3,047 hospitalized with the flu.
At one time, estimates of the effectiveness of last season’s vaccines hovered around 10 per cent, due largely to the strains’ ability to mutate, although the AHS said Friday that the medicine reduced the risk of contracting the flu by 40 per cent.
It’s hard to tell how effective this year’s two vaccines to counter two strains of influenza A and B will be, said Conway.
But some health care professionals in the U.S. are predicting this year’s antidotes will have an improved stopping power.
During the last flu season, 66 per cent of AHS staff were vaccinated, an improvement over the 60 per cent in 2013-14.
The goal this year is for 80 per cent of staff to receive the vaccine, of which 1.6 million doses will be made freely available this season — enough to immunize 35 per cent of Alberta’s population.
Last year, 29 per cent of Albertans were vaccinated, leaving considerable room for improvement, said Sikora. “Though some Albertans are at greater risk of severe complications, no one is naturally immune to influenza,” he said.
Anyone aged six or older is eligible to receive the vaccine at pharmacies, doctor’s offices and health clinics.