AHS rolls out flu vaccine Monday
‘Everyone is at risk’
CALGARY — The province’s health care 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 die in Alberta from flu-involved illnesses, 32 of them in Calgary, said Alberta Health Services spokesman Bruce Conway.
“It was more of a milder season in the southern hemisphere so if that translates, it’ll help,” he said.
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 that include four Calgary locations.
“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 such fatalities in Alberta, with 1,653 people hospitalized due to the flu, a number that jumped to 3,047 in the most recent period.
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, though the AHS said Friday that the medicine reduced the risk of contracting 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.
“Time will tell in terms of efficiency,” he said. “We won’t really know until closer to the end of the season.”
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 201314.
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.