With flu season now upon us, Alberta Health Services (AHS) will launch its annual Influenza Immunization Program starting Monday in hopes of keeping Albertans healthy this winter.
Starting Monday, AHS will offer influenza vaccine free of charge to all Albertans six months of age and older at hundreds of AHS public influenza immunization clinics, as well as at many pharmacists and physician offices around the province that can provide immunization to Albertans five years of age and older.
The first flu clinic of the season in Red Deer is Monday, October 15 from 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Westerner Park Harvest Centre with two more to follow at the same location October 16 and 17 from 12:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Additional flu clinic schedules can be found at ahs.ca/influenza or by calling Health Link at 811.
“All of us have a role in reducing the spread of influenza,” says Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health, in a press release. “I encourage all Albertans to do their part and get immunized this season to help protect themselves, their families and communities from influenza.”
“It is important to get immunized early in the season,” adds Dr. Christopher Sikora, Acting Senior Medical Officer of Health for AHS. “You may be healthy now but, without immunization, everyone is at risk. Prevention is your only protection.”
AHS officials say immunization is the most effective means of protecting against the strains of influenza virus circulating each season, However, because influenza strains change from season to season, Albertans cannot rely on having been immunized in years past.
“Last season, influenza immunization cut Albertans’ risk for influenza by just over 40 per cent,” says Dr. Sikora. “That’s great but last year’s immunization won’t protect you this season. You need this season’s immunization to be protected this season.”
“Influenza does not discriminate,” continues Dr. Sikora. “Though some Albertans are at greater risk of severe complications, no one is naturally immune to influenza. Please don’t take the risk. Influenza can be one less thing we battle this winter. For yourself, and your loved ones, get immunized.”
Influenza is said to cause more emergency department visits than heart attacks and strokes, not to mention significant downtime from work and leisure activities.
According to AHS, over 1.2 million Albertans received their flu shot during the 2017-2018 flu season, including 112,629 people in the Central Zone.
Meanwhile, the number of Albertans admitted to hospital with lab-confirmed influenza was 3,047, including 383 in the Central Zone.
There were 92 flu-related deaths in Alberta last influenza season, including 21 in the Central Zone.
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