Influenza immunization clinics will start the week of Oct. 21 across the province, and health officials issued a reminder to Albertans Friday to get the vaccine as flu season approaches.
For the 2019-20 season, Alberta has ordered enough vaccine to immunize 35 per cent of the population, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said the province is aware there have been production issues with some manufacturers that supply vaccine to Canada, but added Alberta has not had any delay so far in its shipments to pharmacies, physician’s offices and Alberta Health Services.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and assess whether or not there will be an impact to Alberta,” Hinshaw said. “So far we’ve been able to make all of our committed shipments of vaccine.”
The cost of this season’s vaccine is about $12.5 million. During the 2018-19 season, the Alberta immunization rate was 31 per cent, with more than 1.3 million doses of vaccine administered.
In a different rollout this year, pharmacies and doctor’s offices have been able to begin providing vaccines to the public as soon as they receive them. In previous years, pharmacies had been asked to hold off until a particular start date.
“When Alberta Health got our vaccine shipments, we sent it out to Alberta Health Services to do their outreach for those most vulnerable, and in addition we gave it to the large wholesale distributors to distribute to pharmacies and doctor’s offices across the province,” Hinshaw said.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro got his flu shot Friday as he urged Albertans to get theirs through their doctor’s office, pharmacy or through upcoming immunization clinics.
“It’s a great way to help try to protect yourself, but also to help protect vulnerable people who may be around you,” Shandro said.
Hinshaw said Australia had an early flu season, but not a severe one. But she added that while health officials look to the southern hemisphere as a predictor of some flu seasons, it’s not a guarantee that Alberta will see a similar scenario.
Last season, 55 per cent of flu immunizations in Alberta were administered by pharmacies.
There were 7,698 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the province in the 2018-19 season, compared to 9,609 cases in 2017-18.
Hinshaw said last year, Alberta Health Services employees had a 68-per-cent influenza vaccination rate — more than double the general population.
“We’ll continue to advocate for that and remind health care workers that this is an important part of their work, is being protected themselves and for their patients,” she said.
Influenza immunization is free to all Albertans over five years of age at pharmacies, and to Albertans six months or older at public clinics and some doctor’s offices.
More information on AHS immunization clinics is available at www.ahs.ca/influenza.