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Demand high for flu vaccine
Number of doses ordered up by 1,600 from 2010

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 2, 2011

Fifteen minutes after the doors opened at the Elks Lodge for the city's last flu vaccine clinic Wednesday afternoon, about 45 people had already registered.

NNSL photo/graphic

Rob Bell gets his annual flu shot from public health nurse Jennifer Tetlichi at the Elks Lodge Wednesday afternoon. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

The Department of Health and Social Services was prepared to be busy at the makeshift clinic on 49 Street, having ordered a greater number of vaccine doses this year. Cheryl Case, communicable disease consultant with the department, said 14,600 doses were ordered for the territory compared to 13,000 last year.

The flu vaccine budget this year is $79,842, up from last year's $61,371.

The Yellowknife Health and Social Services public health unit offered the flu vaccine free of charge at eight clinics throughout the month of November.

Yellowknifers of all ages were present to get a prick of the needle Wednesday. Children sucked on lollipops as rewards for their bravery, adults who work with the public stopped in from the cold to receive the shot as well as older individuals who do not want to risk catching the respiratory infection.

This was 26-year-old Kassandra Spoelder's second year to receive the flu vaccine. Spoelder said she works in the customer service sector and wanted to have the vaccine as a safeguard since she deals with people day in and day out.

"Last year I got the shot because I was going to Cuba and I didn't want the flu over Christmas so I figured I would get it again this year, same reason," she said.

Rob Bell went to the flu clinic Wednesday after getting off the plane the day before from two weeks working at Diavik diamond mine.

"I haven't gotten the flu, I just get the shot every year. When you get to be my age, you should have it every year," said the 57-year-old.

Case said she is getting indications that at least as many flu shots have been given out this year as last. She said because the department had such high demand last year it ordered more. Staff at the health centres "had enough of an idea that they would be using more this year so they ordered appropriately," said case.

Case said although everyone is welcome to get the influenza vaccine, the higher-risk groups to get the influenza virus are the "young and the old," namely children between six months and 48 months and those 65 years and older.

"Anyone living in long-term care facilities, which is primarily elders, are advised to get it. Anyone that's got heart or lung disease or diseases that affect their immune response - they're certainly a group to focus on," said Case.

She said the department's focus is to let the public know the flu vaccine is a worthwhile endeavour and that it's not too late to receive the shot. As of Wednesday, Case said there was still influenza vaccine available and people must simply make an appointment at their community public health unit.

"Everyone that gets that influenza vaccine (is) playing a very important role in protecting the most vulnerable around them ... It's taking some responsibility for us collectively to protect ourselves and to add that protection to the most vulnerable around us," said Case. "It only takes about 30 minutes of your time versus taking seven days staying home sick with influenza."

According to the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of influenza and its complications annually, depending on the severity of the season. Symptoms usually include a cough, sore throat, sneezing, congestion, extreme exhaustion, general aches and pains, headache and fever.

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