Albertans will have the opportunity to protect themselves and others against influenza beginning Oct. 15 for free.
The public flu clinics will run throughout October and into November all over Alberta to help protect as many people in the province as possible.
Immunization is offered to all Albertans six months of age and older, and will be available at many Alberta Health Services clinics. Some pharmacists and physician offices around the province.
This year, Alberta Health Services has changed the minimum age requirement to have pharmacists administer the immunization.
Pharmacists will now be bale to offer the flu shot to those five and older. Previously the youngest patient a pharmacist could administer the shot to was nine years old.
Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman encourages everyone in the province to get immunized to help protect themselves and others.
“Getting immunized provides the best protection against influenza. With seniors, young children and Albertans with compromised immunity especially susceptible, I encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine to protect not only yourself, but others at risk of getting sick,” Hoffman said in a press release.
The immunization rate was up slightly last year. Alberta Health Services says 29 per cent of the population received the shot last year, up from 27 per cent the year previous.
Over 1million doses of the vaccine were administered throughout the province last year.
“When people get immunized, they protect not only themselves, but also people around them who may be more vulnerable, such as seniors, young children, pregnant women and those with existing health conditions,” said Kristin Klein, the deputy medical officer of health.
Immunization is considered to be the most effective means of protecting against the influenza virus. Each season different strains of the virus circulate. Because those strains change from season to season, Albertans cannot rely on having been immunized in years past.
For the 2018-19 season, Albertans will be able to receive one shot which will help to protect against four strains of influenza.
Statistics show influenza causes more emergency department visits than heart attacks and strokes, not to mention significant downtime from work and leisure activities.
Last year there more than 9,000 lab-confirmed cases of the flu in Alberta. Further 92 deaths among hospitalized patients have been confirmed to be caused by influenza.
Dr. Christopher Sikora, acting senior medical officer of health with Alberta Health Serives says a person can be contagious even if they aren’t showing any symptoms of illness.
“No one wants to be the reason someone else gets sick. And, no one wants to get sick,” Sikora said.
With flu clinics starting around the province beginning Oct. 15, it is important to know where and when the nearest clinic to you will be.
Eckville will hold flu a clinic on Oct. 23, from 1-7 p.m. at the Eckville Community Health Centre. This clinic is for drop-in patients to receive their immunization. Nov. 29 from 3-7 p.m. there will be another clinic, in the same location. This clinic is only for pre-booked appointments.
Sylvan Lake will hold its first clinic at the Alliance Church from 1-7 p.m. on Oct. 25. This clinic is for drop-in patients. Nov. 22 will be the last clinic planned for Sylvan Lake. Also being held at the Alliance Church, the flu clinic will be for both drop-in from 1-7 p.m.
Clinics planned for Red Deer at the Golden Circle on Oct. 22 from 12:30-7:30 p.m. for both drop-in and pre-booked appointments. Kentwood Alliance Church will hold clinics on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 from 12:30-7:30 p.m.; the First Christian Reformed Church on Nov. 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Dec. 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, including local clinic schedules, visit www.ahs.ca/influenza or call Health Link at 811.