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Saskatchewan Gets More Flu Vaccine For People With Compromised Immunity

01/13/2014 04:59 EST | Updated 03/15/2014 05:59 EDT
AP
Registered nurse Charlene Luxcin administers a flu shot to a patient at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. Boston declared a public health emergency Wednesday as the city tried to deal with a harsh flu season and the state reported 18 flu-related deaths so far. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
REGINA - Health officials in Saskatchewan say more flu vaccine has arrived to help meet overwhelming demand, but they still won't be able to immunize everyone.

Some 12,000 doses in the form of a nasal spray have arrived from Quebec. Dr. Denise Werker, deputy chief medical health officer, says 9,000 injectable doses have also arrived from Ontario and the Department of National Defence.

Werker says the additional doses mean that people who have compromised immune systems can get the flu shot.

"This would include persons who have received transplants, people who are on dialysis and people who are on cancer treatment," Werker said at a news conference Monday.

"On a case-by-case basis, the medical health officers will be making decisions about severely immuno-compromised persons. There's a broad spectrum of persons with underlying medical conditions that we are not able to address at this point with our vaccine supplies," she added.

Werker says the additional doses will be delivered to health regions by Tuesday.

A vaccine shortage last week forced Saskatchewan to limit vaccinations to children under five, pregnant women and women who have given birth in the last four weeks.

The injectable doses are important because the nasal spray vaccine cannot be given to pregnant women, children under two or people whose immune systems are already compromised. The injection is a killed vaccine, while the nasal spray is a live attenuated influenza vaccine.

H1N1 is the main flu strain circulating right now in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

H1N1 has the greatest impact on those who were born after the strain first surfaced in the 2009 pandemic. It has been included in the flu shot every year since then.

Saskatchewan has so far reported seven flu-related deaths, 32 people in intensive care because of the flu and 618 lab-confirmed cases. Werker says the numbers have not yet peaked.

"In terms of whether, as a province as a whole, it's going up or down, we know that it's still not stable. I expect that the numbers on Friday are going to go up in terms of the number of laboratory confirmed cases and ICU admissions and deaths. What I don't know is whether the slope of the curve is not as steep," she said.

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