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EDMONTON — Alberta failed to meet its flu immunization goals last season and is setting new targets for its upcoming campaign. Alberta Health Services says about 30 per cent of people rolled up their sleeves for a free flu shot between last September and April 30. The target was 45 per cent. A report shows the plan to have 80 per cent of health-care workers inoculated also wasn't achieved. It says 64 per cent of Alberta Health Services workers got a flu shot, while the rate for health-care workers overall was about 60 per cent. "Health-care workers are at an increased risk of both being infected and infecting others," reads the report posted on a government website. "A better understanding of influenza coverage among staff at AHS will help increase the immunization rates." Alberta government officials said Monday the immunization goal for health workers for the coming flu season will again be 80 per cent. The goal for the general public will be reduced to 40 per cent. The campaign is to begin Oct. 20. Dr. Ada Bennett, acting chief medical health officer, said the lower vaccination numbers show there is a need to better educate why getting a flu shot is a good idea. Bennett said there will be a change in promotion to get people to think about what happens if they make other people ill with flu — especially very young children or people with fragile immune systems who can't have the shot. "If you have very young people living with them or older people — guess who ends up in intensive care when they get influenza?" she said. The same message will be directed at health-care workers, Bennett added, because if they don't get the shot they could make other people ill. "People who end up needing health care — they are beaten up already and their immune system is not as strong." The Alberta Health Services report notes that 101 people died in the province last year of flu-related causes, including 86 in hospitals. The federal advisory committee on immunization says health workers and others who are in a position to transmit the flu to people who are at high risk of complications or of being hospitalized should get a flu shot every year. "Immunization of care providers decreases their own risk of illness, as well as the risk of death and other serious outcomes among the patients for whom they provide care." Last fall, Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical health officer, said if vaccination targets weren't met, Alberta would consider following the B.C. government's policy of requiring health workers to either get a flu shot or wear a mask on the job. Bennett declined to comment on whether Alberta is considering such a policy and deferred questions to the Health Department. Department officials were not immediately available for comment.
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