More get ’flu shots this year

With the Northwestern Health Unit’s annual ’flu shot clinics wrapping up for the season, the program manager for infectious disease noted more people were vaccinated this year than last.
“We’re over the number of ’flu shots that we’ve given at this point this year than we were all last season, which is good,” Cindy McKinnon said Friday.
She noted about 29,000 doses of vaccines were distributed to all health providers in every community the Northwestern Health Unit serves.
“That would go to all the doctors, the jails, hospitals—all the health care providers from Kenora over to Atikokan, as far north as Pickle Lake, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, and to Rainy River and Emo,” McKinnon said.
That number is standard for distribution, she added.
As far as doses that the 13 health unit offices have administered, about 10,500 were given as of Dec. 7.
“So it’s about 500 more than we gave all last season,” McKinnon remarked, noting two additional ’flu shot clinics were running in Fort Frances today and tomorrow (Dec. 19-20).
In Rainy River District, specifically, the Northwestern Health Unit has administered 4,000 doses of the vaccine outside of what’s been given by doctors, hospitals, and other employers that hold workplace clinics.
“Numbers have been up across the province,” McKinnon said. “Most health units are finding that the demand is there. We’re looking like we’re having a colder winter with more time indoors.”
She explained when people are in closer quarters with each other, it becomes very easy to transmit the ’flu.
McKinnon said they’re still encouraging people to get a ’flu shot if they haven’t already, especially high-risk groups and infants between six and 23 months of age.
“That’s one of the groups we’ve been targeting this year . . . and we are seeing an increased rate of uptake,” she remarked.
She stressed it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
“We give ’flu vaccines into the spring months because it’s well-known that there could be outbreaks and illness into March and April,” McKinnon noted.
“We wouldn’t offer them as frequently, but we would still take people on our family clinic day that we do once a week or they could get it through their physician, as well.”
McKinnon acknowledged there are some myths associated with getting the ’flu shot, such as those who claim it doesn’t work.
“In a healthy person, you are going to get up to a 90 percent rate of effectiveness,” she explained.
“And even if the strains happen to not be exactly the same, you’re still going to get a cross-protection of up to 60 percent in a healthy person.”
McKinnon noted there’s a new ’flu vaccine every year because the strains change. The three viral strains the vaccine contains this year are: A/Solomon Islands, A/Wisconsin, and B/Malaysia.
The first strain replaced the A/New Caledonia, which had been part of the vaccine for the past couple of years.
“And in addition, we’re just encouraging people to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze, and, if they’re sick, don’t go to work and spread it,” she added.
For more information, contact the Northwestern Health Unit at 274-9827 or visit www.nwhu.on.ca