Prov­ince set to roll out vac­cine for flu sea­son

Edmonton Journal - - CITY+REGION - BILL KAUF­MANN BKauf­mann@post­media.com Twit­ter: @Bil­lKauf­man­njrn

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.

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