Ontario prepared for H1N1 pandemic

During a media phone interview on Sept. 24, chief medical officer of health for Ontario Dr. Arlene King addressed public concerns regarding the upcoming flu season, the H1N1 strain and the province’s pandemic plan.

With the spread of H1N1 across the globe, Canada has had time to adapt its response plan for pandemics to this specific virus.

“Based on the experience of countries like Australia in the southern hemisphere, we expect that H1N1 will be the main virus circulating this fall,” said King.

King explained that by observing other countries, Canada has had the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming flu season, which in Ontario typically runs from October through April.

“We’re taking all the knowledge that has been accumulated of the virus and applying it in real time,” said King.

The immunization program being offered this year differs from previous years in order to accommodate the H1N1 strain.

“We will be offering two flu immunization programs to the residents of Ontario,” said King.

Seasonal flu immunization will first be offered in October to those 65 or older and to those in long-term care residences. This is because of the susceptibility to medical complications among these groups.

Following this, H1N1 immunization will become available in November to all Ontarians who need or desire the vaccination.

King emphasized the importance of specific groups with compromised immune systems – such as the elderly, those suffering from chronic illness, pregnant women and young children – to get the vaccination as they are more susceptible to the virus.

“Ontario is getting enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of the population,” said King.

Currently the vaccine is offered in two separate doses; however, as H1N1 is still being studied, that number may decrease.

“There are clinical trials ongoing at this time,” said King. “Two doses may in fact not be needed and we’ll have more than enough vaccine for everyone who needs and wants it.”

Following the H1N1 immunization program, the usual seasonal flu vaccination will become available to the general public.

As more is discovered about H1N1, Canadians will be informed about the improvements made in the immunization and recovery processes.

“An informed public is our best defence against infectious diseases,” said David Caplan, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care.

High priority for immunization

-People under 65 with chronic conditions
-Pregnant women
-Healthy children six months to five years of age
-People residing in remote and isolated communities
-Health care workers
-Household care providers

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