Vaccinating Mount Royal
By Robert Strachan & Julie C. Vincent
The EnCana Wellness Centre made 1,200 seasonal flu vaccinations available on Mount Royal University’s campus over the week of Oct. 19 to 23, but they will not be providing vaccines for the H1N1 strain of influenza.
Health Canada announced on Oct. 19 that they have already shipped millions of doses of the H1N1 vaccine to provinces and territories.
Francesca Mancini, wellness services administrator for the EnCana Wellness Centre, said that the centre was hoping to get the vaccine for H1N1 on Mount Royal’s campus but Alberta Health Services decided to manage the distribution of the vaccine.
“Our clinic will only give out seasonal flu vaccines. If you want the H1N1 vaccination you are going to have to go out into the community to get it,” Mancini said. According to Mancini, she was told there will be four H1N1 vaccine distribution clinics in Calgary and that Alberta has 1.9 million doses.
“As the season has progressed, there are medical people who track who is getting sick, what kind of sickness are they getting and what kind of flu are they getting.
“So, right now we know that 90 per cent of people that actually get the flu will have H1N1 flu, so that is the strain they will get,” she added.
Mancini said that although nine out of 10 influenza cases in Alberta are H1N1 strains it is still a good idea to get both the seasonal vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine.
First-year student Desiree Kermack received the seasonal flu vaccine on Mount Royal’s campus on Oct. 19 and says that she plans to get both vaccines.
“We have family issues,” Kermack explained. “We get it for my sister because she has a lower immune system so this way she doesn’t catch it and my mom is a really big person on flu shots. We have had it since we were little every year.”
“As long as it is protecting me from 10 per cent (of the viruses) I am not going to get those so it is still protecting me from some of the harmful ones that could end up killing me or making me really sick,” she said about the seasonal flu vaccine.
On the other side of the argument, there are some who believe vaccinations may not be as beneficial as suggested.
Calgary-based author and opponent of vaccinations Andrew Nikiforuk said via email “hubris is taking over” as the media ramps up the H1N1 panic.
Nikiforuk’s books, The Fourth Horseman and Pandemonium, discuss global disease and the failure of mass vaccinations in effectively dealing with diseases, and make certain allegations about government experimentation with pathogens.
He says he “has yet to see any real efficacy data on the vaccine and, given other issues — that the vaccine might increase risk — would not recommend it for the general population or even those most at risk.”
The Alberta Health and Wellness website makes several suggestions — all common sense tactics for warding off any airborne flu: stay home if you’re ill, wash hands frequently with soap and water, or use a sanitizer, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing one’s nose. As well, cough or sneeze into one’s sleeve rather than hands, and keep one’s hands away from eyes, nose and mouth after shaking hands or touching hard surfaces.
The site also suggests healthy eating, active lifestyle and adequate sleep as prevention strategies.
Alberta Health and Wellness’ site also suggests “social distancing,” and staying out of sneezing and coughing distance.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the last H1N1 virus outbreak occurred in 1976.
In the United States, CDC explains this outbreak was countered with a national vaccination campaign, which resulted in an increased risk in a disorder known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
“During the 1976 Swine Flu vaccination program in the U.S., using a vaccine virus very different than the 2009 H1N1 virus, the 1976 vaccine was associated with cases of a severe paralytic illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome,” explains the site.
The illness is a disorder that causes the body’s immune to attack parts of the nervous system, causing weakness in the muscles and in certain instances, paralysis.
Despite the 1976 situation, the CDC claims it is still advisable to get the H1N1 vaccine.