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Flu shot campaign gearing up

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With winter—and ’flu season—on its way, the province-wide influenza immunization promotion has begun and the Northwestern Health Unit once again will hold its free public clinics starting next week.

“We had a shipment with approximately 7,000 doses arrive last week,” said Cindy McKinnon, the public health nurse heading up this year’s ’flu shot campaign.

“And we’ll have another shipment this week with 15,000 doses,” she added. “We usually distribute 30,000 in total. We encourage everyone that can get the ’flu shots to do so.”

The health unit is responsible for acting as a central vaccine depot for the Rainy River and Kenora districts, distributing it to hospitals, long-term care centres, correctional facilities, and clinics.

“We’re going to try and get at least as many shots administered as last year,” said Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and chief medical officer of the Northwestern Health Unit.

The viruses that cause the ’flu change often, so a new shot is required every year for protection, he noted.

“Persons 65 and over and persons under 65 with chronic medical problems are immunized as a priority; however, health care providers and volunteers in health care institutions are most likely to transmit the virus to the high-risk population and are therefore considered to be priority groups as well,” Dr. Sarsfield said.

Dr. Sarsfield added the universal influenza program, which started in 1999, looks to have been effective in reducing incidents of the ’flu.

In 1999-2000, Ontario saw 2,899 cases of the ’flu, or 41 percent of all lab-confirmed cases in Canada. This dropped to 2,235 in 2001-02.

In addition, there’s been a dramatic drop in the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities and hospitals—from 341 in 1999-2000 to just 205 during the 2001-02 ’flu season.

“We’d like to take credit for this, but we can’t be sure it wasn’t a natural low season for the ’flu or whether the campaign as a whole is working.

“But I’m convinced it’s working,” he remarked.

The health unit will be holding free clinics around the district starting Oct. 21 and running through Dec. 3. Those held at the health unit office are by appointment only.

All people over six months of age are eligible to receive this publicly-funded shot.

Children should be accompanied by an adult. Those under nine years of age who have not received the ’flu vaccine in previous years will require two doses, with an interval of four weeks between shots.

People are advised to wear a short-sleeved shirt.

For a full schedule of locations, dates, and times, look for the ad elsewhere in this week’s Times. For further information, contact the local heath unit at 274-9827.

Meanwhile, the Fort Frances Clinic will be administering ’flu shots starting Oct. 24. These also are by appointment only, and bookings can be made now by calling 274-3287 ext. 287.

The dates set aside for shots are Oct. 24-25, Oct. 28, Oct. 30-31, and Nov. 1.

If you have a scheduled appointment with your family physician, the shot can be given at that time.

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