North

Low flu vaccination rate puzzles Nunavut officials

Nunavut's chief medical health officer says she is disappointed by how few people have received their free flu shot this year, despite the fact that the department is now offering the vaccine as a nasal spray for children.
Nunavummiut children now have the option to avoid the needle and opt to have their flu vaccination administered through nasal spray. ((Nunavut Department of Health and Social Services))

Nunavut's chief medical health officer says she is disappointed by how few people have received their free flu shot this year, despite the fact that the department is now offering the vaccine as a nasal spray for children.

Dr. Geraldine Osborne says only 10 per cent of the population has been vaccinated so far, and few parents and guardians have brought their young children to receive their annual influenza vaccination.

"I really don't know why parents wouldn't jump at the chance of giving their children this vaccine. It's free. It's very safe, it's effective," said Osborne.

The FluMist spray, which was originally intended for children aged two to four, costs $14 per dose - about three times more than the usual needle vaccination - despite the spray's shorter shelf life.

Because of the low turnout, officials are now offering the nasal spray option to older children, so long as there are leftover doses.

This is the second year in a row that health officials have struggled to attract Nunavummiut to flu clinics.

In 2010, health officials began encouraging residents to get the vaccine in October, urging them to get the shot before the holiday season — especially if they planned to travel.

But only 25 per cent of Nunavummiut heeded their warnings and got the shot last year, down from 60 per cent during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

"I know people have a lot of excuses for not getting the flu vaccine," said Osborne last year.

"They feel they're healthy, they don't need it, or maybe they wait and want to put it off. But if you wait until influenza is here, it's too late because it takes two weeks to build up the immunity to it."

now