Health officials will be offering a free flu shot this October to all Albertans six months and older.

The cost of $8 million is worth it to make sure as many people as possible are immunized against flu, Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said Thursday.

edm-couriveau

Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, speaks with reporters in Edmonton on Thursday. ((CBC))

"The annual seasonal flu vaccine will protect you against three strains that have been circulating before," Corriveau said. "It won't protect people against H1N1, so it'll be a separate vaccination.

"When it's all said and done, people will have an opportunity to be immunized against four influenza strains instead of three, which is the usual practice."

A vaccine for H1N1 is expected to be ready and available later in the fall, Corriveau said.

The influenza vaccine will be available at public health clinics and some doctor's offices and pharmacies, Health Minister Ron Liepert said.

"It is a valuable investment in strengthening the public health system in Alberta, and is the best way of protecting Albertans from seasonal influenza viruses that we see every year," Liepert said in a statement.

In the past, the flu shot was only free for children between six months and four years of age, seniors, health-care workers and adults and children with serious health problems. Some adults who lived with people in those groups were also eligible for a free shot.

Health officials are working separately on plans to immunize all Albertans against swine flu, also called the H1N1 virus, as soon as a vaccine becomes available, the province said.