New Brunswick

Health department nixes flu shot proposal

New Brunswick Health Minister Madeleine Dubé has cancelled a proposal that would have delisted flu shots for high-risk people as a way to save money.
New Brunswick Health Minister Madeleine Dubé said Thursday the province is not eliminating free flu shots to high risk patients.

New Brunswick Health Minister Madeleine Dubé has cancelled a proposal that would have delisted flu shots for high-risk people as a way to save money.

The health minister made the announcement on Thursday.

"It was clear ... that members of the public, as well as the medical community, were concerned about this approach," Dubé said.

The Department of Health allows people aged 18 to 64 with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, and pregnant women to receive the seasonal flu shot for free because they're among those considered at high risk for complications, including death.

The department raised the idea of eliminating the free flu shots in August when it published the proposal on its public consultation website.

The response from the public during the consultation phase was nearly unanimously opposed to the idea.

"The consultation is done and I'm pleased to announce now that we're not going to move forward with those two initiatives," Dubé said.

The Department of Health was also going to delist the removal of skin lesions, such as warts and moles, by freezing.

Several groups came out and opposed the ideas. The New Brunswick Medical Society and the Canadian Diabetes Association publicly criticized the proposal.

Jake Reid, the executive director of the Canadian Diabetes Association, said the provincial government made the right decision by stopping the plan to delist flu shots for high-risk people.

"We were very optimistic from the beginning, once groups starting coming out and speaking against this proposed decision that they would change their minds, and obviously they have, and we think this is a good thing," Reid said.

Dubé said she will have to look elsewhere in the Health Department to find the $1 million that would have been saved.

"Basically if we say, 'We want to protect everything and continue' that would be the easiest way, just to continue what we're doing now. But the reality is we cannot afford it anymore. We just can't. It would be irresponsible," she said.

The provincial government would have saved $600,000 through cutting the flu vaccine and $400,000 by delisting the removal of lesions by non-surgical methods.

The Progressive Conservative government is attempting to wrestle down its $450-million deficit.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs has already ordered departments to trim their budgets and warned that more cuts could come next year.

The province is launching its annual flu vaccination campaign on Oct. 11.

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