Science

Get H1N1 vaccine: health minister

Health officials on Sunday were preparing the launch of the biggest vaccination program in Canadian history, targeting the pandemic H1N1 virus.

Health officials on Sunday were preparing the launch of the biggest vaccination program in Canadian history, targeting the pandemic H1N1 virus.

Beginning Monday, H1N1 influenza vaccine will be available across most of Canada to health-care workers and to people considered to be at a higher risk for complications from the respiratory illness.

Eligible groups include individuals under the age of 65 who have chronic medical conditions, as well as pregnant women and people living in First Nations or remote and isolated communities.

"I encourage Canadians to get the vaccine to stop the pandemic," federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told CBC News.

"One of the things that we can do as individuals is get the vaccine to prevent yourself from getting ill. Not only that, but your children and everyone else around you," she said.

"Not getting the vaccine — there's huge risk to that," Aglukkaq said.

Ottawa approved the vaccine last Wednesday.

On Saturday, an outbreak of swine flu at a high school in Trois-Pistoles, Que., prompted officials in the province's Bas-Saint-Laurent region to begin vaccinations, two days ahead of schedule.

Thirteen of 16 samples from students attending Arc-en-Ciel in Trois-Pistoles reveal the presence of the H1N1 virus. The cases are all considered to be mild, but almost one-third of the student population is home sick.

The community of 3,600 people is about 250 kilometres east of Quebec City.

New Brunswick took the lead on the rollout of the immunization program last Wednesday when it began giving shots to some health-care workers assigned to administer the vaccination to the public.

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