Winnipeg's massive H1N1 immunization campaign begins Monday morning at a dozen locations, but health officials are pleading with people not to 'come on down' all at once.
"We don't need everyone who we're recommending to get vaccinated first to come on the first day," said Dr. Sande Harlos, a medical officer of health with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
If you're in one of the priority categories for receiving the H1N1 vaccine (see list below), go to a clinic when it's convenient for you, Harlos said.
"We invite people to take this seriously and get vaccinated as soon as they can -- but really space themselves out over the next week or two to make sure our clinics will flow smoothly and it's not inconvenient for people to wait too long," she told reporters Thursday.
Local health officials are holding mass-immunization clinics at cultural centres, parish halls and several shopping centres over the next six weeks. The clinics will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays.
Officials expect to administer 60,000 to 75,000 doses of vaccine per week, first to the groups most vulnerable to the H1N1 virus and then to everyone else who wants a shot.
While they're planning on 75 per cent of Winnipeggers rolling up their sleeves for the free vaccine, they're hoping for even higher numbers.
Getting immunized can protect you from the flu but also protects others from getting it, too, Harlos said. "If I'm immune and I get exposed, I don't get ill and then I don't pass it on to someone else," she said.
For the first couple of weeks, only those on the priority list will be immunized, and then the WRHA will open the mass clinics to anybody who wants a shot. The authority will issue a bulletin advising when the clinics will be open to all.
But at first, the following have priority:
- children aged six months to under five years old;
- everyone of aboriginal ancestry (First Nations, Métis or Inuit);
- people under 65 with chronic illness or other risk conditions, including severe obesity, substance abuse or alcoholism;
- anyone with a weakened immune system or those who live with and care for them;
- single parents or anyone solely responsible for a dependent;
- people living in remote or isolated areas; and
- disadvantaged populations, such as the homeless.
Health-care workers and medical first responders will be offered vaccine at their workplaces, but can also attend the mass clinics if it is more convenient for them.
The WRHA is advising pregnant women to wait until early next month for an unadjuvanted vaccine. But if H1N1 rates are high or increasing before it becomes available, women more than 20 weeks pregnant can be offered adjuvanted vaccine, the health authority said.
The WRHA said Thursday that the clinics are not booking appointments. Patients will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring your Manitoba Health card.
Officials said that school-aged children will be immunized at the mass clinics along with their parents -- as opposed to in the school.
Special smaller clinics will be set up, however, at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other locations to reach vulnerable or disadvantaged persons who may find it difficult to show up at one of the mass clinics.
Gloria O'Rourke, vice-president of human resources with the WRHA, said the H1N1 immunization is a massive undertaking, with 1,000 staff shifts per week needing to be filled across the city.
She said the WRHA is calling on nurses and nurse practitioners who can work extra shifts to help out at the clinics, as well as nurses who work in doctor's offices and recently retired nurses.
Where to get the H1N1 flu shot
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
2255 Grant Ave.
Portage Place Shopping Centre, 2nd floor
393 Portage Ave.
University of Manitoba, Fort Garry Campus
Room 210, Multi-Purpose Room, 2nd Floor University Centre
Fred Douglas Lodge
1275 Burrows Ave.
St. Joseph's Parish Hall
515 College Ave.
Holy Eucharist Parish Centre
460 Munroe Ave.
Grant Park Shopping Centre (theatre entrance)
1120 Grant Ave.
Centre culturel franco-manitobain
340 Provencher Boul.
St. Paul The Apostle Parish
2400 Portage Ave.
Indo-Canadian Arts and Cultural Centre
479 St. Mary's Rd.
Garden City Shopping Centre (next to TD Bank)
2305 McPhillips St.
DeFehr Logistics Building
770 Pandora Ave. East
-- Source: www.wrha.mb.ca