Amidst reports that supplies of flu vaccine may be running out soon across Canada, health officials in Saskatchewan (including Sun Country Health Region) are making changes, focussing their vaccination efforts now on young children and pregnant women.
Sun Country Health Region (SCHR) announced on Friday they will follow the advice of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health to focus its Public Health influenza immunization clinics on pregnant women and children between six months of age and five years of age.
The change in focus began on Saturday, as these two groups will be the only groups of people eligible to receive flu shots at the public health clinics in SCHR and throughout the province.
Saskatchewan Health is working with its partners to secure additional vaccines and distribute it to the health regions as it becomes available.
The provincial department estimates about 25 per cent of the province’s population have received the influenza vaccine since last fall.
The continuing high demand for flu shots has used up the province’s supply of 280,000 doses, and additional supplies are limited.
Flu season generally begins in November and continues until March/April. SCHR began offering vaccinations to staff and the public on Oct. 21, 2013.
Influenza cases continue to increase in Saskatchewan with seven influenza-related deaths as of Jan. 10, with 32 intensive-care unit hospitalizations, and 618 lab-confirmed influenza cases so far this season.
The H1N1 strain has been predominant from the start of the influenza season and it is expected that young children (less than five years of age) will be at greater risk as they will not have immunity to H1N1 and will be more susceptible. Pregnant women are also at increased risk for severe illness from H1N1.
H1N1 is the same strain that first appeared in 2009 and it has been included in influenza vaccines since 2010.
Dr. Shauna Hudson, Medical Health Officer for Sun Country Health Region, reminds the public they should take all other precautions to avoid the seasonal influenza infection. That includes adopting infection prevention methods such as frequent handwashing, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, cleaning surfaces often and staying at home when sick.
Dr. Hudson also reminds people that if they are sick they should not visit residents in long-term care facilities or hospitals within the Region.
SCHR is also encouraging all visitors who are not immunized to wear a mask when they visit residents and patients in its health care facilities to protect vulnerable residents.
Masks are available at the entrances to health care facilities or can be obtained by speaking with the nursing staff.
If you are the parent of a child between six months of age and five years of age, or are a pregnant woman, please call your local Public Health office to make an appointment for an influenza immunization.
Public Health Nurses in SCHR can be reached in Estevan, Weyburn, Kipling, Redvers, Carlyle, Coronach, Radville or Oxbow.