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Wednesday, 15 January 2014 15:17

Plan to be proactive during flu season

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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It’s being touted as one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in Alberta’s history.

If one hasn’t received their influenza vaccine yet, it’s now too late. On Jan. 11, Alberta Health Services officials announced the vaccine is no longer available in the South Zone.
That is in part due to the number of individuals who were seeking out the shot after Christmas, once influenza’s circulation became more prevalent.
People were especially concerned once they saw how many individuals were becoming ill with H1N1, a stronger version of the regular flu which tends to affect more people in their prime as opposed to the elderly or young people.
Moving through various circles, it’s interesting to listen to some conversations this flu season which we are only midway through. Some people are of the impression that a shortage of flu vaccine falls on the shoulders of those in health care or Alberta Health Services. There is only one group to blame for a shortage of vaccine or if one  gets the flu because he or she didn’t get vaccinated — him or herself.
There are reams of people in charge of determining the who, when and where of the annual influenza vaccination campaign. These people have to do research to determine first, what prevalent strains of flu may circulate this season and then, where and when to hold various clinics. They also have to determine just how many doses of the vaccine may be required. They aren’t making the vaccine, merely ordering it. Their best guess for doses is based upon history. It’s really the only tangible number they have. How many people in the past have received the vaccine?
No one can predict when a population will all of a sudden decide to make a run on flu vaccine because they watched their neighbour get sick and now they don’t want to get it. So many people unfortunately have chosen a reactionary attitude toward receiving the flu vaccine. If they see the flu’s effects, then they will choose to want the vaccine as opposed to taking a proactive approach.
It was also interesting to see the rate of influenza vaccination by health worksite released by AHS. Dated Jan. 6, it showed the number of health workers being vaccinated throughout most of the province ranging from a low of 45.2 per cent in the Calgary Zone to a high of 50.4 per cent in the Central Zone. In the South Zone 46.5 per cent of health workers had opted to get their flu shots.
It has raised a different debate about whether health workers should be mandated to have their flu shot every year. It’s an interesting question and there are definitely pros and cons to each side. We do think however it would be hard to insist health workers should be immunized if the same isn’t going to be done for numerous other individuals who have interaction with health-care facilities or individuals at risk. Where does one decide to draw the line?
Flu shot or no flu shot, there is still some simple advice everyone can take to heart for the rest of this influenza season. Three simple steps can help limit one’s exposure to the illness — cover one’s mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing; clean one’s hands regularly with soap and warm water (and keep those hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth); and stay at home when sick.
Here’s hoping more people choose to be proactive about their health every year by rolling up their sleeves for the vaccination prior to the start of flu season as opposed to reacting to it at the midway point.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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