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Health unit kicks off ’flu shot campaign

Gearing up for ’flu season, the Northwestern Health Unit began administering immunizations to the public this week.

“Everything’s ready to go,” Donna Stanley, manager of infectious diseases, said yesterday.

“It’s quite smooth, actually,” she noted. “We’ve got a big supply.

“We often have to be strict about the high-risk groups going first because we are waiting on our bigger shipments, but this year we got lots,” she explained.

“We still want to prioritize our higher risk people and make sure they have access, so we’re trying to go into locations where they are likely to be able to get access, and we’re interested in making sure that those people can get it,” Stanley added.

“But at the same time, anyone who shows up will get a shot.”

People identified by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as being at the highest risk of influenza, and its complications, are encouraged to get immunized early, Stanley stressed.

In fact, these high-risk groups have been expanded this year based on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“Normally, it’s recommended for children under two, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly,” Stanley said.

“But they’ve added this year three groups, which are children under five, all aboriginal people, and anyone who is obese, just because those were the people who seemed to be hospitalized more often last year,” she explained.

Family members and those who provide care for people in the high-risk group, as well as emergency services workers, also are encouraged to get their ’flu shot early.

While some may equate the ’flu with winter, Stanley urged the public not to rest on their laurels and get their ’flu shot sooner than later.

“It’s been so nice out, nobody’s thinking ’flu yet. No one’s excited this year,” she conceded.

“[But] getting it before there’s ’flu around is the best bet.”

The influenza vaccine this year contains the strains A/California (H1N1), A/Perth, and B/Brisbane.

Stanley said the H1N1 vaccine, which was administered as a separate shot last ’flu season, now is one of the three strains in the regular shot.

She added this is normal practice, noting “whatever was the big circulator last year is likely to be part of this year’s ’flu vaccine.”

(Children who have never gotten a ’flu shot before still may require two, but they’ll get that specific information from the public health nurse when they see them).

Influenza shots for the public are available at the local offices of the Northwestern Health Unit, as well as the clinic and other health-care facilities, which also have received their vaccine supplies.

The next walk-in clinic in Fort Frances is slated for next Tuesday (Oct. 26) from 3-7 p.m. at the Legion.

To check out local clinic schedules, visit www.nwhu.on.ca

Influenza clinic schedules also can be accessed by calling the health unit’s toll-free number (1-866-468-2240) or phoning the local office (274-9827).

Stanley said most of the health unit’s ’flu shot clinics will be held this month and through November. But after that time, people still will be able to get their shot by making an appointment at their local health unit or doctor’s office.

As in the past, the vaccine is free to Ontario residents over six months of age.

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