The H1N1 adjuvanted vaccine has arrived at the Northwestern Health Unit and immunization clinics are now underway.
After kicking off yesterday in Rainy River, the clinics began today in Fort Frances while the first H1N1 vaccinations will be administered in Emo tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.
The clinics, primary offered by appointment at the health unit’s offices, will run through to the second week of November.
“We want to make sure it is done as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Jim Arthurs, acting medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit, adding he hopes the district will stay ahead of the game and avoid an outbreak of H1N1 altogether.
“There is no outbreak here yet and it would be great to keep it that way. . . .
“We may be able to have a wonderful winter, health-wise, if we get the vaccinations out,” he stressed.
Dr. Arthurs also said that a previous study which suggested people wait several weeks to get the seasonal ‘flu vaccine after receiving the H1N1 one has turned out to be not valid.
“In fact, it is safe to give them both at the same time,” he noted. “They’ll just have to have one in one arm and one in the other.”
He is recommending everyone get immunized as soon as possible.
“It is absolutely safe,” he remarked, though admitting nothing is 100 percent because people will have allergies and whatnot.
“But the studies done have not been hurried and it has been declared safe across North America,” Dr. Arthurs said.
“It is possible we will see the seasonal ’flu also, maybe in November, December, or January, so I encourage everyone to get immunized,” he added, saying he will lead by example and get his H1N1 vaccination.
Being over 65, he already has received the seasonal ’flu vaccine.
“And it’s good because the H1N1 vaccine matches the exact strain that is circulating,” he said.
He believes the recent deaths of a Grade 8 student in Toronto and a 10-year-old girl from Cornwall, Ont. will alert people to the possible severity of this illness.
“Their deaths are tragic,” he remarked. “While it’s not proven that they had H1N1, it is suspected they did and that is not comforting. . . .
“Maybe it will change people’s heads.”
Dr. Arthurs also indicated that perhaps residents here have seen news reports of the long lines for the vaccine in the United States, as well as in larger cities in Canada.
“I think some are starting to feel more panicked about the situation, so people are going to decide pretty quickly whether or not they will get [the shot].”
Dr. Arthurs clarified the non-adjuvanted H1N1 vaccination, which would be best for pregnant women and young children, will be available sometime next week.
However, if an outbreak were to occur, the adjuvanted vaccine still would be safe for them to take.
“We still have to be cautious about supply and demand,” he warned, explaining the Northwestern Health Unit has not received its full supply of vaccinations, but will get a new shipment each week.
“Therefore, we want to make sure those in the priority group who want the vaccine are able to get them.”
Those in the priority group include those under 65 with chronic conditions, pregnant women, healthy children aged six months to under five years, people living in remote or isolated communities, health-care workers, and household contacts and care providers of persons at high risk who cannot be immunized or who may not respond to vaccines.
Immunization clinics have been scheduled at the health unit’s office in Fort Frances today until 4 p.m., tomorrow from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m.-noon.
They also are scheduled for Nov. 3 and 4 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Nov. 5 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Nov. 6 from 9 a.m.-noon, and Nov. 13 from 9 a.m.-noon.
The health unit’s office in Emo will hold clinics Oct. 29, Nov. 2, Nov. 3, Nov. 9, and Nov. 10 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and again on Nov. 12 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
While these dates are all by appointment only, there will be two public walk-in clinics in Fort Frances—one at Robert Moore School on Tuesday, Nov. 10 from 3-7 p.m. and another at St. Francis School on Thursday, Nov. 12 from 3-7 p.m.
For more information, contact your local health unit or the ’flu clinic hotline at 1-866-468-2240.
Information also is available at www.nwhu.on.ca