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Health Unit will vaccinate against pandemic H1N1 virus first Clinics for seasonal flu put on hold, except for seniors

SIMCOE, ON, SEPT. 24, 2009 – Clinics for seasonal flu for seniors 65 and over will go ahead as scheduled in October, but clinics for the general public are on hold as the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit instead targets the pandemic H1N1 virus.

“Following the advice of Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, we intend to vaccinate first against the pandemic H1N1 virus, rather than the seasonal flu virus, and will be holding the H1N1 clinics soon after the vaccine is expected to arrive in November,” explained Health Unit Communications Coordinator Robert Roth. “After that, the seasonal flu vaccine will be available through doctors. We’ll decide at that time whether it is necessary to hold Health Unit clinics for seasonal flu. For now, however, clinics for seasonal flu for the general public are on hold.”

“This year, it’s a different flu season,” Roth said, “because we have to cope with the regular seasonal flu virus as well as the new pandemic H1N1 flu virus that is circulating in Canada and around the globe.”

The pandemic H1NI virus is being targeted first because it is the dominant flu virus, accounting for around 70 percent of flu cases, Roth noted. Also, some unpublished Canadian studies have suggested that people who received seasonal flu vaccinations in the past may be more at risk of getting the pandemic H1N1 flu.

“Although these studies have yet to be thoroughly reviewed and confirmed, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has concluded that the most prudent course of action is to vaccinate against the pandemic H1N1 virus first,” Roth said. “Consequently, seasonal flu clinics for the general public are on hold. However, the ministry also suggests we proceed with seasonal flu clinics for those aged 65 and over, and those in long-term care homes, because the elderly are more susceptible to complications from seasonal flu and they also show greater immunity to the pandemic H1N1 flu virus compared to the general population.”

Seniors will have two options for receiving their seasonal flu shot. They can get it from their family doctor, who will have the vaccine by early October, or they can attend one of the Health Unit clinics below:

Monday, Oct. 19: Delhi Seniors, Delhi Friendship Centre, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 21: Simcoe Seniors, Simcoe Town Centre, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 22: Caledonia Seniors, Caledonia Library, Remax Room, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23: Dunnville Seniors, Grandview Lodge, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Dates for the pandemic H1N1 clinics will be announced after the vaccine arrives in November.

“There will be enough pandemic H1N1vaccine for everyone in the province who wants it, but it won’t be coming all at once, so we will have to phase it in according to priority groups,” Roth said.

The ministry says the following groups should receive the pandemic H1N1 vaccine first:

  • Pregnant women because they are at highest risk of severe disease and to potentially protect their infants.
  • People under 65 with chronic conditions because they are at higher risk of complications due to infection.
  • Healthy children six months to five years of age because they are at particular risk of severe disease.
  • Persons residing in remote areas because of limited access to medical care.
  • Health care workers because of society’s responsibility to protect health care workers, to keep health care facilities operational and to prevent spread of the disease to patients or other vulnerable people.
  • Household contacts and care providers of persons at high risk who cannot be immunized.
  • Populations otherwise identified at high risk due to particular local conditions.

Vaccinations would then be offered to other members of the public.

“Currently, the ministry has suggested two doses of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine will be needed for full protection, but that could change to one dose for one or more groups as more studies are completed,” Roth said.

More information on the flu is available on the Health Unit website at www.hnhu.org.

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Media contact:
Robert Roth, Communications Coordinator
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3259 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3259