EDMONTON - Alberta is gearing up for the flu season with an ambitious plan to almost double the number of people who get flu shots.
Alberta Health Services says it has ordered more than 2 million doses of vaccine and hopes 45 per cent of people in the province will roll up their sleeves to be immunized.
Last year the province faced a shortage with 1.2 million doses and had an immunization rate of about 27 per cent.
Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical health officer, says when the "Get It Before You Need It" campaign begins Oct. 20, people can get free shots at public health clinics, a larger number of pharmacies and doctors' offices.
Predy says Alberta also hopes to increase the immunization rate of health-care workers to 80 per cent from about 55 per cent last year.
He says reaching these targets would help already busy hospitals from being overloaded during the flu season.
"It can be a very serious illness and lead to death and hospitalization," Predy says. "It puts a lot of pressure on our hospitals and emergency departments.
"People can not only protect themselves, but protect others in the community."
The federal National Advisory Committee on Immunization strongly suggests that health workers get flu shots, saying that refusal to be immunized implies failure in their duty of care to patients.
The committee calls flu shots an essential part of the standard of care for health workers for the protection of their patients.
Predy said Alberta will try to encourage more health workers to get flu shots by promoting the benefits of immunization, including honouring staff who get shots as "flu champions."
He said if the voluntary approach isn't successful, Alberta will consider following the British Columbia government's policy of requiring health workers to either get a flu shot or wear a mask while on the job.
"Part of our messaging to our staff is it is part of their duty of care to patients. We are stressing to our staff our objective is that no patient should get influenza from one of our staff. That is something that is just not acceptable."
Alberta Health Services says the flu immunization campaign will feature a media blitz this month to encourage people to get protected, not infected.
The province is already running immunization ads on buses and bus stops with a darker message.
Two of the ads make reference to polio and whooping cough epidemics that killed more than 100 Albertans during the 1950s.
The slogan on these ads is: "Keep The Past Where It Belongs."
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