The deaths of two young Manitobans who recently passed away from complications due to influenza has sparked a larger conversation about flu vaccinations in the province.
According to Manitoba Health, only 22 per cent of Manitobans were vaccinated for influenza this season, up from the 20 per cent vaccinated the previous year.
But health officials said that number isn’t good enough to prevent larger outbreaks within the population.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said the goal is to hit an 80 per cent immunization rate to ward off the flu, however in 2018-19, only 42 per cent of Canadians got the shot.
“Influenza, also known as the flu, is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Canada, averaging 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year,” the federal government states on its website.
Vaccination rates throughout Manitoba vary greatly.
Only 6.5 per cent of residents in Norway House got vaccinated this season, according to the province.
Within Winnipeg itself, the numbers are significantly higher. Assiniboine South saw the highest vaccination rates in the city at 31.5 per cent, whereas only 14.9 per cent of people living in Point Douglas got the vaccine.
Recently, a 24-year-old Morden woman and a 17-year-old Winnipeg high school student died from complications related to the flu.
Joanne Ens, the woman from Morden, started feeling flu-like symptoms on Jan. 1 that only got worse over the next few days.
She was eventually airlifted to St. Boniface Hospital before dying on Jan. 6.
“The doctors are certain it started as influenza B, and it is suspected she picked up another infection while fighting that,” her husband Dustin Ens said.
Dustin told Global News that Joanne had not received the flu shot and that he feels she would still be alive if she had got one.
Blaine Ruppenthal, a Grade 12 student at Kelvin High School, was rushed to St. Boniface Hospital on Jan. 7 after suffering a cardiac arrest twice. He was put into an induced coma and received hypothermic therapy but died Monday, according to the Winnipeg School Division.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said the most commonly reported reason for receiving the vaccine was to prevent infection or avoid getting sick (45 per cent), while the most common reason for non-vaccination was the perception that the vaccine was not necessary (20 per cent).
Flu shots are free and are offered at most pharmacies, walk-in clinics and doctor’s offices.