Flu Vaccine Universally Available This Flu Season: Oswald

September 22, 2010

Province Launches Annual Vaccine Program Encouraging Manitobans to Get the Shot, Not the Flu

Manitobans are encouraged to Get the Shot, Not the Flu to protect themselves and the people they care for, as part of the 2010 provincial annual influenza vaccine program, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.“For this year, the flu vaccine will be available at no charge to all Manitobans, not just those in high‑risk groups,” said Oswald. “An annual flu shot helps to limit the spread of the flu and immunizations are a safe, effective way to protect the health of all Manitobans and their families.”

The annual Get the Shot, Not the Flu campaign will soon be underway across Manitoba. This fall’s seasonal flu shot will immunize against the most common strains of influenza as determined by the World Health Organization. This year that will include the H1N1 strain. The vaccine is approved by Health Canada and will be provided at no charge by Manitoba Health for everyone for the 2010-11 season.

People need the flu shot every year because protection provided by the vaccine is usually for one influenza season, said the minister.

An annual flu shot is especially important for Manitobans at increased risk of serious illness from the flu, their caregivers and close contacts, Oswald said. They include:
· seniors aged 65 years or older,
· residents of personal-care homes and long-term care facilities,
· children aged six months to four years of age,
· those with chronic illness,
· pregnant woman,
· health-care workers and first responders,
· individuals of Aboriginal ancestry, and
· people who are severely overweight or obese.

Manitobans can be immunized at public-health clinics or by their primary health-care provider throughout the province commencing in October. More information on specific clinic dates and locations is available from local public-health offices.

The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists’ estimations about which types and strains will circulate in a given year. Last year, H1N1 flu was a new, emerging strain and was declared a pandemic. This season, it is part of the regular seasonal flu immunization for Canada.

Influenza is more severe than a cold. Contracting influenza can result in severe complications such as pneumonia, hospitalization or even death. Every year, it’s estimated that between 4,000 and 8,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, die from complications relating to the flu but not the flu itself.

Influenza is generally spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing and other direct physical contact. Symptoms may include fever and chills, cough, headaches, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat and exhaustion.

Manitobans aged 65 and over, anyone living in a personal-care home or long-term care facility and people two to 64 years of age with specific health conditions are also eligible to get a no-cost pneumococcal shot at the same time they get their flu shot. This vaccination can prevent pneumonia, blood infection and meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

More information about flu shots and influenza symptoms is available at www.gov.mb.ca/health/flu/index.html.

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