New flu vaccine for children in a nasal spray
Alberta Health Services to offer new method as part of annual vaccination campaign
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012 06:00 am
Alberta plans to aid the immunization of small children and teenagers against influenza by providing them with a nose spray rather than injections.
The number of Albertans immunized against the common flu each year remains below the provincial target of 33 per cent. In 2011, Alberta Health officials counted only 23 per cent of the population receiving their flu shot.
They are now hoping the nasal spray will improve immunization rates for those between the ages of two and 17.
Starting Oct. 15, health clinics around the province will provide flu shots and sprays free of charge to all residents of Alberta.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health James Talbot said in a press conference on Tuesday that annual immunizations should be as common as preparing your house for the fall.
“People are aware of other fall routines that they do. Winterizing their cars and cleaning out the gutter,” he said.
“We do these things to make sure that we are protected and the people we care about are protected and immunization falls into that category.”
Talbot added that the nasal vaccine is less effective when used on adults yet cautions people to not fear the needle. Receiving the annual shot not only protects the individual but everyone at home, at work and in the public sphere.
With the virus’ DNA changing every year, past vaccines prove less effective. This year’s flu shots will also immunize against H1N1.
Improving influenza vaccination rates remains a priority for Alberta Health Services each year, considering the toll on provincial hospitals from patients affected by the flu, said Alberta Health Services Senior Medical Officer of Health Gerry Predy.
“Each year influenza creates a lot of pressure on our system,” he said.
“Getting your shot will not only help us manage through the winter pressures –and we are not just there to protect you – but also to ensure that people have access to other services.”
The groups most at risk from contracting influenza are young children between six and 23 months, and those over 65 years of age. People with chronic diseases such as diabetes and lung and heart conditions are also at a high risk to become seriously ill when contracting influenza.
Generally, doctors advise people to wash their hands and cough into their sleeves, instead of their hands, which they use to touch things. The most common signs of influenza are a sore throat, runny nose and cough. In worse cases this can be accompanied by a high fever, soreness, aching muscles and headaches.
Predy added that children suffering from asthma should not use the nose spray. To further improve its services, Alberta Health Services will increase the use of social media sites to inform the public about the flu shot.
Alberta does not have plans to force health-care workers into getting flu shots though they are encouraged to get their immunizations updated as often as everyone else.