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Alberta flu shots: clinics now open for 2019-20 season, except in Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: In tonight's edition of health matters, Su-Ling Goh has details about flu clinics in the province, a website to help you find a family doctor and a local man who celebrated his 60th birthday by fighting 60 people.

Albertans interested in receiving a flu shot are now able to visit an immunization clinic, with the exception of those residing in Edmonton.

Clinics for the 2019-20 flu season opened throughout Alberta on Monday, the same day as the federal election.

However, in an email to Global News, Alberta Health Services said that although flu clinics launched in many communities throughout the province on Monday, in the Edmonton Zone they aren’t rolling out until Monday, Oct. 28.

“This is due to a larger population requiring outreach services to high-risk populations before our public launch,” Dr. Chris Sikora said. “People can talk to their local pharmacist or physician this week about getting immunized, or they can plan their visit to an AHS clinic next week”

READ MORE: Flu vaccine available to Albertans starting Oct. 21

AHS suggests everyone six months and older get an influenza vaccination. They are free to those who live, work or attend school in the province.

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The province-wide clinics aren’t the only way to get a flu shot; some pharmacies and physician offices also offer the vaccine.

To find a clinic near you, you can use the clinic locator tool on the AHS website.

The Alberta government purchased 1.6 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2019-2020 season at a total cost: $12.5 million. According to the province, this is enough to immunize 35 per cent of the population.

Officials said the number of vaccines they order is based on the historical demand.

“Generally speaking, any jurisdiction is going to look at, you know, just in general how much vaccine was used up last year — it’s probably the main determinant in looking at the vaccine supply,” said Dr. Jai Hu, Medical Officer of Health for the Calgary Zone.

“So we know in Alberta, roughly, every year only about 30 per cent of Albertans get immunized and so we always hope that this season, that number will be higher but I’d say historic use is always the biggest determinant of what we procure.”

Hu said they don’t typically run out of the vaccine and do their best to ensure those who do want a flu shot will get one.

How well does influenza vaccine work?

The influenza vaccine can keep you from getting influenza and spreading it to your family and others.

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AHS states on its website that how well the vaccine works “changes from one influenza season to another.”

“A new vaccine is made every year to protect against the three or four viruses that are most likely to cause sickness that season.”

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“Even when the vaccine does not exactly match the viruses going around, it can still give some protection and make it less severe,” the website reads.

Protection starts about two weeks after you get the vaccine.

Everyone is at risk of influenza, and anyone can get very sick and develop complications. However, the province says you are at the highest risk of getting the flu if you:

  • Have some types of health problems (e.g., heart/lung conditions, diabetes, weak immune system, morbid obesity/very overweight)
  • Live in a care facility (e.g., nursing home)
  • Are 65 years or older
  • Are pregnant
  • Are Indigenous
  • Are a child under 5 years old

Children under five years old can’t be immunized at a pharmacy, and must instead be taken to a clinic or physician’s office.

Alberta flu facts

According to AHS, over 1.3 million influence vaccine doses were administered in the province last flu season.

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There were 1,976 hospitalizations and 52 deaths (in hospital) among people with lab-confirmed influenza.