Higher uptake of H1N1 vaccine here than expected

Heather Latter

After more than a week since the H1N1 vaccine has been available here, Arlene Lesenke, director of health protection for the Northwestern Health Unit, is reporting the immunizations have gone well.
“We have a higher uptake than what was expected,” she noted Wednesday.
“Our clinics have experienced some similar issues as those across the province with longer-than-normal wait times,” she added.
Lesenke said the health unit has re-evaluated its clinic times, locations, and number on a community-by-community basis.
“And we’re just going to continue to try to work towards rolling the vaccine out as quickly as possible,” she remarked, citing a total of 5,800 immunizations at just the health unit have been administered across the region.
Lesenke stressed, however, that only those who fall into the priority groups are being vaccinated right now as the health unit continues to follow the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s recommendation on how to roll out this vaccine program.
“We have no confirmed date on when the general public will be able to receive the vaccine,” she stated. “But we do know that everyone who wants it will have access to it in the upcoming months.”
Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, announced last week that the general public may have to wait weeks before getting their vaccines.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, indicated the goal is to have Canadians who want the H1N1 shot to be immunized by Christmas.
“For people who do not fit into a priority group, they are less likely to suffer severe complications from the virus,” Lesenke noted.
“But what they do need to continue to do is practice infectious control measures, which is washing your hands often, coughing and sneezing into your sleeve, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth—and if you are sick, stay home,” she advised.
Lesenke said there are laboratory-confirmed cases of sporadic H1N1 cases in the Northwestern Health Unit’s catchment area.
“And what that means is there are confirmed cases, but there are no outbreaks,” she remarked, though not commenting on the severity of the cases.
The health unit currently is focusing on H1N1. Lesenke said when that is finished, they will be holding seasonal influenza clinics for those under age 65 who wish to receive it.
“We just want to thank people for their patience and understanding, and working with us,” Lesenke added.
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