Waterloo Region residents will be among the first to receive the newly released vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus; three immunization clinics are already scheduled to join two seasonal flu vaccine clinics beginning early next month.
As a frontrunner, the region will be the first to gauge the public’s reaction to widespread swine flu vaccinations.
Currently, two million doses of vaccine for patients across the country are stored in 80 warehouses at secure locations. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has decided to postpone most of the seasonal flu immunization campaign until after the H1N1 vaccination push. The ministry has some evidence that shows a possible association between immunization with seasonal flu vaccine and infection with H1N1 flu: individuals under the age of 65 should wait to get the seasonal flu shot after the H1N1 flu vaccine.
The vaccine is being offered first to those who are 65 years of age and over because they are more likely to develop serious complications and be hospitalized from seasonal flu infection. At the same time, the evidence to date has shown that those born prior to 1957 are generally less likely to be infected with H1N1.
The Region of Waterloo Public Health department has so far received laboratory confirmation of five cases of H1N1 in the region. Patients range in age from six to 26 years old, with four of them having underlying medical conditions and two requiring hospitalization. Most individuals who contract the H1N1 flu virus experience a mild to moderate form of illness. Laboratory testing is currently focused on individuals whose symptoms are severe – requiring hospitalization – or who are at greater risk of complications from influenza.
“The confirmation of H1N1 cases in Waterloo Region is not unexpected,” noted Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s associate medical officer of health. “We were expecting influenza cases to increase this fall and we know that H1N1 is now the dominant strain of influenza in the world.”
During the first week of November, the clinic will be running its regular seasonal flu vaccinations for individuals over the age of 65, followed by the specialized H1N1 vaccine starting on Nov. 3. For individuals under the age of 65, the regular flu vaccine will be distributed in both December and January.
Details (dates, times, locations) of all future seasonal flu and H1N1 flu virus immunization clinics will be released each Thursday. For example, the clinics to be held the week of Nov. 9 will be released on Nov. 5.
Public health departments across Canada are expected to have similar clinics running within weeks. Information about Waterloo Region’s response can be found online at www.waterlooregionpandemic.ca.