Newfoundland and Labrador's largest health board announced plans on Thursday for mass immunization against swine flu in the eastern part of the province, affecting other services in the process.

The Eastern Regional Health Authority says the vaccination program is forcing it to temporarily suspend some other public health services.

"In order to give priority to these pandemic prevention measures, a number of public health services will be suspended until the completion of mass immunization clinics," the health authority says in a news release. 

These services include:

  • Prenatal education offered by Public Health.
  • Healthy Baby Clubs.
  • Breastfeeding support groups.
  • Preschool Health Check clinics.
  • School health programs, including school immunizations.
  • International travel clinics.
  • Routine adult immunization programs.
  • Routine tuberculin testing.
  • Health promotion programs.

The health authority's H1N1 program begins Monday with the immunization of health-care workers at sites throughout the region, including St. John's, and will encompass all residents in the Eastern Regional Health Authority's area beginning Nov. 2.

The health authority says exact dates, locations and hours of operation of clinics throughout the region will be publicized in the days to come.

"Immunization against H1N1 is a key factor in controlling the spread of the disease and keeping the numbers of those affected as low as possible," Dr. David Allison, Eastern Health’s medical officer of health, says in the news release.

"While immunization is not mandatory, I encourage all staff and residents of our communities to take advantage of this vaccine, provided free of charge, as a prevention against contracting the H1N1 virus," 

Eastern Health says the vaccine will be offered first to people "who will benefit most from it": Children aged six months to five years, people under 65 with chronic health conditions, and people living with and caring for people at high risk of contracting the flu.

The health authority recommends that pregnant women receive a different type of H1N1 vaccine, referred to as a non-adjuvant, which will be available early in November.

More than 85 community health nurses will be redeployed to carry out mass immunization clinics in Eastern Health's region.