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Roll up your sleeves: H1N1 flu shots available Monday

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WINNIPEG - The H1N1 flu shot will be available to Manitobans beginning on Monday.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced today the vaccine has been approved for use in Canada, allowing provinces and territories to proceed with H1N1 flu shots as soon as possible.

"We now have a safe and effective vaccine being distributed to provinces and territories that they will be rolling out in a matter of days," Aglukkaq told a news conference.

"I encourage all Canadians to get vaccinated because it is the best way to protect our health and the health of our loved ones."

This afternoon, the province released a priority list of those who should be vaccinated first. The list includes:

  • children aged six months to under five years old;
  • anyone of Aboriginal ancestry (First Nations, Inuit or Metis);
  • disadvantaged individuals such as the homeless;
  • people living in remote or isolated areas;
  • people under 65 with a chronic medical condition or other risks including severe obesity, substance abuse or alcoholism;
  • anyone with a weakened immune system or those who live with or care for them;
  • those who live with or care for infants under six months old;
  • single parents or anyone solely responsible for a dependent;
  • health care workers and medical first responders; and
  • pregnant women.

The H1N1 flu shot is expected to help protect Manitobans against the new pandemic strain of the flu now in circulation, the province said.

Officials strongly encouraged Manitobans to get the H1N1 flu shot, at no charge, at flu clinics run by their regional health authorities.

More information on the flu fight in this province is available on Manitoba Health's website.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has a contract to produce 50.4 million doses of pandemic vaccine at its facility in Ste-Foy, Que.

But there are concerns about the new vaccine, which contains adjuvants or compounds that boost the immune system's response to vaccine, allowing for smaller doses.

There's currently no licensed flu vaccine containing adjuvant in Canada, although adjuvants have been used for years in Europe in flu vaccines targeted at seniors.

There are no data on the use of so-called adjuvanted flu vaccine in pregnant women, which may add to the already high degree of reluctance many pregnant women feel about taking any medication or therapy. There is also little data on the safety of the additives in vaccines given to children.

Though it had first said it would only buy adjuvanted vaccine, the federal government later ordered 1.8 million doses of vaccine that does not contain adjuvants for pregnant women and young children. But the doses shipped this week contain adjuvants.

The unadjuvanted vaccine is expected to be ready by early November, Aglukkaq said.

National recommendations on the use of H1N1 flu vaccine have been developed based on the latest scientific evidence. The recommendations include:

  • All Canadians 10 years of age and older should receive one dose of adjuvanted vaccine.
  • Children from six months and up to 10 years of age should receive the adjuvanted vaccine in two half-doses, administered at least 21 days apart
  • Immunization not authorized for children six months old and younger.
  • Pregnant women should receive one dose of the unadjuvanted vaccine. In cases where the unadjuvanted vaccine is unavailable and pandemic H1N1 flu rates are high or increasing in the community, women more than 20 weeks pregnant should be offered one dose of the adjuvanted vaccine.

The H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same time as the seasonal flu shot and other vaccines, as long as the needles go into different arms.

With files from The Canadian Press



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