Flu shot frenzy hits St. Albert
More than 100 queue up at flu clinic within first hour of opening
By: Amy Crofts
| Posted: Tuesday, Jan 07, 2014 04:15 pm
With her four-year-old son Asher in tow, Dallas Ivany navigated through a crowd of at least 100 at the St. Albert Public Health Centre Tuesday afternoon.
The pair were in and out of the influenza immunization clinic in about an hour, but as the queue of people snaked through the building just an hour after the clinic doors opened, the wait time was bumped up to three hours.
With a total of 10 deaths and 300 hospitalizations from H1N1 confirmed in Alberta so far this flu season, people are flocking to mass immunization clinics to get their flu shots.
“It’s a big concern when you have little ones, especially when they’re going to daycare and school,” said Ivany, citing a recent ward quarantine at the Stollery Children’s Hospital due to flu outbreak.
St. Albert resident Denise Ludlow doesn’t get her flu shot every year, but chose to get herself and her two children, aged two and three, vaccinated this year because of the scare.
“Better safe than sorry especially for the little ones,” she remarked.
Albert Health officials confirmed those that died from influenza this year were between the ages of 18 and 64. The group included some people with other health problems as well as young healthy adults.
The predominant flu strain this year is H1N1, accounting for about 90 per cent of lab-confirmed cases.
Preliminary figures from Alberta Health suggest that immunization rates in Alberta are up slightly from last year, but Health Minister Fred Horne is continuing to urge Albertans to get vaccinated.
“So far this flu season, only one in five Albertans (21 per cent) and about half of health-care workers (49 per cent) received the flu shot. These rates are too low to adequately protect Albertans, their families and communities. In some parts of the province, influenza is starting to clog emergency rooms, limit access to hospital beds, and put strain on other health care resources,” he said.
Local pharmacies are receiving higher call volumes about the flu vaccine than usual for this time of year. The majority of dispensaries ran out of both vaccines – the injection and the nasal spray vaccine – last weekend.
“Our last shot went out at 4 p.m. on Friday,” said Lisa Devos, pharmacist and owner of Salvus Rxellence Professional Dispensary, adding an order for more vaccine was placed with AHS that same afternoon.
However AHS hasn’t indicated if or when the next shipment is due to arrive, noted Devos, and with about 30 people now on the waitlist, she doesn’t want to make false promises.
“We’ve called them a couple times and haven’t heard back,” she said.
Alberta Health officials said Monday that two more shipments of vaccine are on their way.
Pharmacists at Salvus have already given out more than 200 flu shots this flu season.
Marlene Bykowski, manager of Remedy's Rx Pharmacy, said the urgency for flu shots typically slows down at this time of year.
“Most of the flu shots we give out are in October, November, December and by December it really trickles down because everyone who wants one has had one, but this year there is a little bit of a panic,” she remarked.
Vaccines are offered for free to every Albertan six months of age and older. Pharmacies cannot immunize anyone under nine years of age.
The immunization clinic at the St. Albert Public Health Centre will remain open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. respectively until Jan. 30.
The clinic is located at the St. Albert Public Health Centre at 23 Sir Winston Churchill Ave.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the clinic is only offering FluMist, the nasal spray vaccine.