Toronto H1N1 vaccine program in good shape ahead of flu season’s peak

Toronto is in a good position to protect Canadians from the H1N1 flu and should reach its goal of having nearly 90 percent of people inoculated before spring, officials said Saturday. “I am confident…

Toronto H1N1 vaccine program in good shape ahead of flu season’s peak

Toronto is in a good position to protect Canadians from the H1N1 flu and should reach its goal of having nearly 90 percent of people inoculated before spring, officials said Saturday.

“I am confident that Toronto is in position to achieve its goal of 90 percent of people getting fully vaccinated in time for spring,” Toronto Public Health Acting Director of Health Protection Monique Jepson said.

Jepson and Mayor John Tory were out in the community Saturday, giving a different set of kind words about vaccinations than has been given here in much of the country.

Tracy Ukaubo, a Health Promotion Educator with Toronto Public Health, said the government would ensure that no family in Toronto would be left uncovered. Jepson said extra outreach workers will be there.

“We’re looking to the community to learn their full names and phone numbers,” Ukaubo said. “We want them to call us directly.”

They are going to do this from March 15 to April 16. People without regular phones or internet connections are encouraged to call them at 416-808-7170 to report and be helped with queries.

If a person is at all sick, they will not be offered a flu shot or any other vaccine, said Jepson.

An Ontario government directive which went into effect February 1, increased the eligibility standard from the Centers for Disease Control. The change covers those not protected by their faith or having proven allergies, to those 6 months or older. Those at higher risk include pregnant women, young children, people with health problems and those with asthma.

Dr. Lisa Lapin, a microbiologist with Toronto Public Health said the Canadians here should not worry.

“There’s a catch,” she said. “Only those with an illness of concern to Toronto Public Health, are going to be scheduled.”

The Canadian government decision has doubled the number of Americans eligible to get flu shots through federally managed programs in Canada. The public health officials say most of those will not be given a shot here but will receive flu shots through the medicare system. They cannot then expect protection from the shot they received.

Canada has 9,136 people infected, including 2,611 in Ontario. Toronto’s Jepson said there are those in the quarantine who still cannot get any kind of good treatment but no one is in a critical care unit or is on dialysis.

Canada’s public health agency says cases remain widespread in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Public health officials in Alberta say there are only 20 active cases in the province. The vast majority of Canadians still have not had their flu shot. Canada requires all those 18 and older to have a flu shot. The required number of doses varies depending on the province.

The U.S. has reported 393 people infected, including 17 children, according to the latest count from the CDC.

So far this flu season is on par with other years. About 55 percent of Americans had some type of flu vaccine, but 1 in 10 received less than one dose. However, since it protects more effectively when administered early in the season, this year’s vaccine is expected to be less effective than in years past.

The actual shot costs about $25 with insurance covering a portion of the cost and about 60 percent of people were immunized in the U.S. Those estimates from CDC, a different CDC agency than public health officials.

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