FHHR has FluMist nasal vaccine now available

Lisa Goudy
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Bonnie Nelson, public health nurse for the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR), demonstrates with Willeke Gals how the FluMist nasal vaccine process would work at the Moose Jaw public health office on Jan. 23, 2014.

Remaining injectable vaccine earmarked for specific groups

A few hundred doses of FluMist vaccine are available in the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR).

By appointment only, the nasal vaccine is licensed to use for anyone between the ages of two and 59. Dr. Mark Vooght, chief medical officer with the FHHR, said there is a “relatively limited (supply of) injectable vaccine,” but the injectable flu vaccines are set aside for infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and now also for anyone over the age of 60.

However, anyone from six months of age to seniors can phone in for an appointment to get vaccinated with the suitable vaccine.

“It is not a killed vaccine. It is a live, weakened vaccine and that is precisely why we don’t give it to pregnant women and we don’t give it to people whose immune systems are taking a knock at the moment,” said Vooght. “The reason for that is it could cause illness in those people and we don’t want that to happen.”

Because it’s a live vaccine, Vooght said there is a theoretical but unlikely chance the flu could be passed on to someone else. However, he is not aware of any cases in the FHHR.

“A situation where that’s important is where, for example, health care workers or a member of the family that wants to be vaccinated, they may be working with very ill people whose immune systems are depressed,” said Vooght. “It could be someone who’s in and out of chemotherapy or has cancers of the blood.”

The FluMist vaccine covers the same strains of influenza as the injectable vaccine, which includes H1N1. It is not recommended for children under the age of two, pregnant women, people who are immune-compromised and health care workers providing care to patients with immune-compromised conditions.

“The nice thing about the FluMist vaccine is that it’s a fine spray which is sprayed into the nose. It’s got a very nice little nozzle attached onto the end,” said Vooght. “It actually transforms a small amount of liquid — it’s a very small amount of liquid — into a spray.”

A provincial health ministry release said Saskatchewan received 107,000 doses of FluMist nasal vaccine. More injectable vaccine is expected to arrive in the first week of February for people who can’t get vaccinated with FluMist.

“It’s somewhat complex, but people don’t need to worry. They can just phone us, make an appointment and we will give them the most appropriate vaccine,” said Vooght.

The public health office in Moose Jaw held a clinic on Wednesday by appointment only until 6 p.m. Wednesday night. The attendance was “modest” and there is another appointment-only clinic set for Friday and next week at the Moose Jaw office, said Vooght.

As of Wednesday night, the FHHR had 48 per cent of children aged six months to two years vaccinated against influenza. The provincial figure is 38 per cent.

“We’ve got the highest coverage rate for the six months to two years for influenza vaccine in the province, our health region,” said Vooght. “So that’s wonderful. I’m really happy with that.”

The FHHR is on par with the provincial average for vaccinations in older children.

He said those at public health and in other health regions are worried the public interest in getting vaccinated is fading, which is a “natural phenomenon.”

“But we would like to encourage people to come forward and be vaccinated,” said Vooght. “What we’re seeing in the province and in fact Canada is the highest number of cases of influenza … have been in the working age group mostly and in the next age group affected is younger children and seniors is relatively few.”

For an appointment to get vaccinated, contact the public health office at 306-691-1500.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

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