All Manitobans can get a free flu shot this year with a vaccine which includes protection against the H1N1 virus, the health minister announced Wednesday.
"For this year, the flu vaccine will be available at no charge to all Manitobans, not just those in high-risk groups," said Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald.
"An annual flu shot helps to limit the spread of the flu and immunizations are a safe, effective way to protect the health of all Manitobans and their families."
This year's flu shot will immunize against the most common strains of influenza as determined by the World Health Organization – and that includes the H1N1 strain, Oswald said in a news release.
Last year, federal, provincial and municipal governments spent an estimated $1 billion on a massive public vaccination campaign to protect Canadians against H1N1, a new virus that killed 428 Canadians. In a normal year, an average of 4,000 Canadians die of regular flu-related complications.
Oswald said this year's vaccine in Manitoba has been approved by Health Canada. "The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains will circulate in a given year. Last year, H1N1 flu was a new, emerging strain and was declared a pandemic. This season, it is part of the regular seasonal flu immunization for Canada," said the news release.
Manitoba Health says those who should consider a flu shot include:
- seniors aged 65 years or older,
- residents of personal-care homes and long-term care facilities,
- children aged six months to four years of age,
- those with chronic illness,
- pregnant women,
- health-care workers and first responders,
- individuals of Aboriginal ancestry,
- people who are severely overweight or obese.
More information about flu shots and influenza symptoms is available at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/flu/index.html.