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Flu shots available in Alberta starting Oct. 23; AHS not offering nasal spray

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WATCH: As AHS prepares to roll out the flu shot in late October, the available options for kids are changing. Heather Yourex-West reports – Sep 26, 2017

Albertans will be able to get a flu shot starting Oct. 23, 2017, the provincial government announced Monday.

Anyone age six months and older can get immunized free of charge.

For more information, including local clinic schedules, visit www.ahs.ca/influenza or call Health Link at 811.

This flu season, Alberta Health Services (AHS) will not be offering FluMist nasal spray. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization no longer recommends it for children between two and 17 years of age. The committee concluded that FluMist and injectable vaccines are equally safe and effective for children.

READ MORE: What happens to your body when you get the flu, step by step

Only seniors in long-term or supportive living facilities will be offered the FluAd booster from AHS. FluAd is an influenza vaccine designed to boost the immune response in seniors. It won’t be available at public health clinics this season.

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However, Albertans can still buy FluMist nasal spray and FluAd booster in pharmacies.

“Both FluAd and FluMist are more expensive vaccines,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s deputy chief medical officer of health. “Influenza vaccine costs overall have gone up this year so all the vaccines are more expensive but the cost was reduced by the changes to the vaccine program.

“The main driver was really wanting to be as effective as possible as reaching as many as Albertans as possible when the clinics open,” she said.

“The complexity of having multiple different vaccines for multiple different groups who arrive at multiple different times — especially because we had experienced delays in shipments of some of the other vaccines like FluAd in previous years — so the program is planned to have the widest reach to cover the most Albertans using the recommended vaccines.”

READ MORE: Is there a link between the flu vaccine and miscarriage?

During the 2016-17 flu season, over 1.1 million Albertans received flu shots.

In total, 64 flu-related deaths were reported in Alberta during the previous flu season, compared to 62 in 2015-16, according to Alberta Health Services (AHS).

Data contained in AHS’ final influenza report on the 2016-17 flu season, indicated 20 of the deaths were in Edmonton, 18 were in Calgary, 11 were in the Central Zone, seven were in the South Zone and another seven occurred in the North Zone. AHS doesn’t provide any details on the deaths (other than where they occurred) due to privacy concerns.

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In total, AHS recorded 4,494 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A during the 2016-17 flu season, and another 702 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza B.

For more information on AHS’ influenza program, you can visit AlbertaHealthServices.ca.

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