Influenza season is upon Prince Albert and everyone is after the sweet nectar that is the flu shot.
© Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
More flu shots have been scheduled in PAPHR this week, following the region getting more supply of the vaccine Monday and Tuesday.
Flu clinics in the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region were cancelled on Monday due to lack of vaccine available in the region, but with a new supply of vaccine new clinics have been scheduled.
“We had some additional vaccine arrive between a couple of different shipments between Monday and (Tuesday) night,” communications officer for PAPHR Doug Dahl said. “We have vaccine in stock, which is why we are able to schedule those ones.”
Clinics will be held on Thursday at the McIntosh Mall in Prince Albert from 1 to 4 p.m., on Friday at the Kinistino Health Centre from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and also on Friday at the Spiritwood and District Health Complex from 1 to 6 p.m.
They are hoping to provide the vaccine to people at risk, Dahl said, who may have underlying health conditions, are pregnant or under five years old.
How many clinics will be put on in the health region depends on how much vaccine will be available, Dahl said.
“The availability to add clinics will depend on vaccine supply and vaccine supply depends on the ministry,” Dahl said. “We are expecting we will use a lot of it up over the next few days at the clinics we have got scheduled.”
Many people have been rushing out to get their flu shots after hearing the number of influenza cases in the province.
“We’ve vaccinated a lot of people within the last few days, substantially more than we get at this time of year,” Dahl said. “We know the interest is higher because people have seen some very severe illness.”
As of Monday, the Ministry of Health confirmed there are 336 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza in the province, as well as six deaths and 18 hospital admissions, deputy chief medical health officer for the ministry Dr. Denise Werker said in a press conference on Tuesday.
“I want to stress that we see deaths and hospitalizations every year in influenza season,” Werker said. “I also want to make note that for influenza, the vaccine is the best way to get protected against seasonal influenza and the H1N1 strain that is circulating this year is contained in the seasonal influenza vaccine and those persons that have been vaccinated this fall do not need to worry, they are protected as well as the vaccine can protect them.”
Since the strain that is circulating this year is H1N1, Werker said children under five years old and working adults between the ages of 20 to 64 are at risk.
“We recommend that children under five, pregnant women and adults with underlying conditions get vaccinated,” Werker said.
Although the six confirmed deaths in Saskatchewan were associated with H1N1, the virus is not necessarily what killed them.
“We need to be clear that when we have these deaths reported, it is not like receiving the official death notice,” Werker said. “We do not know that influenza was the cause of death or even a contributing cause of death but it is the best information that we have in real time.”
Although flu clinics are being held throughout the health regions now, Werker said it is not the best time of year to be vaccinated.
“We know having once been vaccinated that it takes approximately two weeks to have full protection from the vaccine and we haven’t peaked yet in terms of the influenza season,” Werker said. “Unfortunately those persons who are getting vaccinated now and in the next couple weeks are not in the best position.
“Those who got vaccinated early in the fall when the vaccine was first available are going to have full protection,” she added. “Our vaccine clinics open at the end of October and we do recommend that persons get vaccinated once those clinics open.”
The other thing to note, she said, is that although the H1N1 virus was a pandemic in 2009, the country is not in pandemic mode now.
“During a pandemic what happens is generally there is only one strain that circulates because that one strain basically out crowds all other strains because there is sufficient immunity, there is no immunity in the population,” Werker said. “When there is immunity in the population, there is basically a battle against the strains to see what is going to take hold.”
It is also important to note H1N1 isn’t the only strain that can cause complications.
“Every season we get deaths related to influenza,” Werker said. “We can’t predict who is going to get severe disease. In general, people with underlying medical conditions will get severe disease but unfortunately every influenza seasons there are apparently healthy adults who can die from influenza.”
The ministry is also working on making sure all the health regions have enough vaccine supply, she said.
“This is fairly late in the season to start accessing additional doses and this is what we are working on now,” Werker said. “We are working with our health regions on a daily basis now to monitor the supply and to move vaccine supply to where it is needed.”
The province originally started with 280,000 doses, which was based on historic needs, but due to the popularity of the vaccine this year, they are working on getting additional doses.
“It is a question of what may be available this late in the season -- it is important to know that vaccine production season has finished globally so there is a limited global supply and we are working with all the provinces and federal government to acquire whatever we can,” Werker said.
“We at this time are still trying to determine how much vaccine we can get and depending on how much vaccine we get, we will have to make our plans accordingly.”