With the release of the influenza vaccination on Oct. 15, Alberta Health Services announced that children ages five and up can receive their flu shot at a pharmacy, rather than children ages nine and up as in previous years. This change was made to ensure that Alberta’s immunization program is comparable to what other provinces are doing.
In the past children under the age of nine were not permitted to receive their flu shot at a pharmacy location, instead having to go to an AHS clinic for their flu shot due to the restricted access pharmacists had to immunization records.
If it were the child’s first time receiving a flu shot under the age of nine, they would require two doses to be given, at a minimum, a month apart. Because pharmacists in previous years did not have access to immunization records, they did not have the ability to rapidly report to others who would be giving the second dose.
According to the Influenza Immunization Program Newsletter, last year’s flu season saw 615,711 influenza vaccinations administered by community pharmacists as of March 10, 2018. This number is greater than all other flu shot administers combined, which comes in at 605,334 doses. This number includes physicians, AHS non-public health partners and more. People are flocking to pharmacies more often for their flu shots and this year those numbers will likely rise due to the incorporation of younger children.
Mother of three, Brittany Fraser, took her six-year-old son Patrick to the pharmacy to receive his flu shot. The Fraser family believes it is very important to be immunized against influenza as they have a three-month-old at home who is most at risk. Patrick and his younger brother, three-years-old, are both school age meaning they are exposed to all kinds of bacteria daily.
“I vaccinate [my kids] because I think it’s important… to maintaining their health in situations where they might not always be granted that,” says Fraser.
Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services, Doctor Judy MacDonald, says, “We have a great health care system and we have lots of other things that we do to keep people healthy. But vaccines actually are still pretty well one of the most important things to really protect people, especially including children from these terrible vaccine preventable diseases.”
But even with free flu shots for the Alberta public, only 26-28 per cent of children ages two to five received the vaccine last year.
For young children, there are increased risks of complications such as pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and dehydration and they are also more likely to die from the influenza disease than older children and adults under 65. Last year there were a reported 92 deaths in Alberta and 3,024 people were admitted to hospital with laboratory confirmed influenza.
- By Kaeleigh Allan