New campaign urges Ontario health-care workers to get flu vaccine

One half of Ontario hospital staff currently receive the shot

Toronto (CP) — Ontario is urging all health-care workers to get immunized in the upcoming flu season to protect themselves and the patients they come into contact with.

The province's chief medical officer of health, Arlene King, launched the Let's Get Fluless” campaign on at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Speaking at an industry event, King said about half of the province's hospital staff and three-quarters of long-term care workers currently receive the flu shot.

King said she would like to see 90 per cent of health-care workers in the province get immunized.

According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, children under five, seniors and people with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions are at particular risk of infection or even death.

The flu, or influenza, affects about 10 to 20 per cent of Canadians every year.

King said health-care workers who do not currently get the vaccine are avoiding it due to unsubstantiated concerns of safety and effectiveness, just like the general public.

“There are many of them,” King said. “One is that the flu shot may not work as well as we want it to be, and I want to reassure everyone that 60 to 80 per cent of healthy adults in fact develop immunity.”

King added that serious adverse reactions of immunization are rare — about once in every million doses administered.

She said a substantial amount of public misinformation comes from the discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who wrote a paper in 1998 on links between immunization and autism.

“We dealt with that story, and continue to deal with that erroneous information,” King said.

King added that the flu season that has just passed in the Southern Hemisphere has been mild, and that could be an indication to the severity of the current Canadian flu season.

“But that shouldn't be a determination of whether someone gets a flu shot,” King said. “It can strike people at any time.”

King said the province is currently in the second year of its three-year strategy to encourage immunization among health-care workers.

She said promotional material such as posters, pamphlets and banners will be sent to all hospitals in the province, adding that this is the first time there is an immunization campaign across all health-care sectors.

The campaign is expected to continue until mid-December.

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