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A shot of prevention

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Nov 01/06) - Health officials are hoping to improve upon the disappointing number of people who received their flu shots in Nunavut this past year.

Only 39 per cent of Nunavut's total population were immunized in 2005-06.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Kivalliq director for Public Health Fred Montpetit receives his flu shot from nurse Lourdes Hernandez in Rankin Inlet this past week. Montpetit was the first person in the Kivalliq to be immunized this year. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The Kitikmeot led the way with 64 per cent, followed by Kivalliq with 36 per cent and Baffin with 27 per cent.

The types of flu expected to be on the go this year are A/New Caledonia, A/Wisconsin and B/Malaysia.

The flu shots are based upon the observations of health professionals monitoring viruses on the other side of the planet which will eventually make their way to Nunavut.

Director for Public Health Fred Montpetit was the first person in the region to receive a flu shot this year.

He said Public Health aims for at least 50 per cent coverage, which would actually cover more than half of the population.

"That being said, herd immunity works best at 80 or 90 per cent," said Montpetit.

"At 50 per cent, you're still going to be around a lot of people who are not immunized.

"Baker Lake had one of the lowest responses to the flu shot in Nunavut this past winter, and it also had one of the worst influenza outbreaks in the territory."

Public Health is offering a chance to win great prizes again this year to anyone who receives a flu shot.

Among the prizes are two tickets on Kivalliq Air, a round-trip ticket to Winnipeg from Rankin Inlet on First Air, a box of caribou jerky from Ivalu and 50 free taxi rides from Jobe's Taxi in Rankin.

Everyone who gets a flu shot is entered into a draw for the main prizes.

The free taxi rides will be awarded to a resident of Rankin Inlet.

Montpetit said he doesn't mind if people only get a flu shot because of the prizes.

He said if a repeat of the Baker outbreak can be avoided by offering prizes, that's cheaper than bringing the outbreak under control.

"Public Health in Rankin will have flu-shot clinics at its office and other buildings around the hamlet.

"People in outlying communities can contact their local health centre for their shots.

"We requested enough flu shots to take care of half the Kivalliq population.

"We'll scramble to get more if we exceed that, but 50 per cent would be a large increase over last year."