N.S. frees up flu vaccine as Alberta runs low on supplies
Published Thursday, January 9, 2014 6:10PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 9, 2014 7:41PM EST
Alberta residents are flocking to H1N1 flu vaccination clinics amidst a spike in cases and hospitalizations, and Nova Scotia is freeing up 10,000 doses to help meet the demand.
More than one million Albertans have been immunized against seasonal flu this season, and demand has exceeded the province’s supply.
Meanwhile, Dr. Frank Atherton, Nova Scotia’s deputy chief medical officer of health, told reporters Thursday that the province ordered 435,000 flu vaccine doses, more than in any previous year, and doesn’t expect a shortage.
Atherton said federal officials held back some of the doses Nova Scotia ordered, and he has made the decision to transfer a portion of them to provinces in need, including Alberta.
“We’ve agreed to release a small amount of that stock, about 10,000 doses, to other provinces on a loan basis,” Atherton said.
He noted that because the national flu vaccine stock will be replaced, Nova Scotia will still be able to access those doses “if we need them.”
While public health officials have said for days that this year’s flu season is about average, Alberta has been hit particularly hard, with more than 1,500 confirmed cases of H1N1, the dominant strain in this year’s flu.
Nine people have died in the province, according to Alberta Health Services, while nearly 400 people have been hospitalized. Seventy have been treated in intensive care.
Public health officials have warned residents to get vaccinated even though H1N1 was the dominant strain back in 2009. Most people will no longer have immunity to the strain, even if they received their flu vaccine that year.
Earlier this week, Premier Alison Redford reassured Albertans that there will be enough vaccine doses to meet the demand. However, some Calgary residents have taken to social media to warn about hours-long wait times at the city’s two vaccination clinics.
Public health officials in Calgary said Thursday they are working “diligently” to manage the vaccine supply. The Calgary clinics will operate Thursday and Friday as scheduled, and vaccine will be set aside for children under age nine who have received one shot and require a second dose.
Residents who are arriving at the public clinics to get vaccinated are being given wristbands, which guarantee them a shot. They can either choose to wait in line, or leave and return later in the day.
In Edmonton, public health officials plan to open a flu care clinic to help ease the pressure on local doctors’ offices and emergency departments. The clinic, at 13221 – 115 Avenue, is open to patients with flu-like symptoms. It will not be offering vaccinations.