Edmonton H1N1 vaccination clinics open to shorter lines

There were relatively short lines Monday as Edmonton's swine flu vaccination clinics opened to the general public for the first time since late October.
A man receives his H1N1 vaccination at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium clinic Monday.
There were relatively short lines Monday as Edmonton's swine flu vaccination clinics opened to the general public for the first time since late October.

Back then, long lineups and vaccine shortages prompted the province to limit the program to high-risk groups only, but on Monday, waits at some clinics averaged about 15 minutes.

"This morning was a pleasant surprise," said Norm Johnson at the Commonwealth Stadium clinic.

When Johnson tried to get vaccinated in late October, he faced a four-hour lineup. On Monday, he got his needle moments after walking through the door.

Mia Abe was one of the first people in line waiting for the 9 a.m. opening of the Commonwealth Stadium clinic.

Edmonton H1N1 clinic locations

  • Westmount Shopping Centre.
  • Commonwealth Stadium.
  • Northgate Centre.
  • Millbourne Mall.
  • Rutherford Centre.
  • Grandin Park Plaza, St. Albert.
  • Strathcona County Health Centre.

"I work with children, and so I'm kind of, like, in contact with a lot of people all the time, and I just wanted to protect myself and protect my co-workers," Abe said.

She also tried getting her shot in late October but, like Johnson, was turned off by the prospect of waiting for four hours in line.

The vaccine targets the H1N1 influenza A virus that causes swine flu.

47 flu-related deaths so far

Alberta started giving H1N1 flu shots on Oct. 26. Unlike other provinces, which initially restricted shots to high-risk groups, Alberta's clinics were open to all.

But after a week marked by hours-long lineups at clinics, particularly in Edmonton and Calgary, the province suspended the program on Oct. 31.

H1N1 vaccine clinics like this one at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium were open to the general public Monday. ((James Hees/CBC))
When the program resumed on Nov. 5, only children older than six months and under five years old were eligible for the vaccine.

In subsequent weeks, the program expanded in stages to include other high-risk groups, such as older children, pregnant women and adults with chronic illnesses.

More than 650,000 Albertans have been inoculated to date.

Although the number of swine flu cases in the province appears to be waning, health officials are still urging Albertans to get immunized as there could be a "third wave" of the illness later this winter.

As of Monday, Alberta reported 47 deaths and 1,042 hospital admissions linked to swine flu since the start of the outbreak in April. Seasonal flu kills between 11 and 90 Albertans every year, according to health officials.

Temporary flu assessment clinics in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge were set to close Monday at the end of clinic hours , due to declining demand as the second wave of the virus waned. The clinics — plus one in Medicine Hat, which closed last week — treated more than 9,000 patients in less than a month.