Ponoka’s high risk patients get H1N1 shot

The first Ponoka vaccination clinic for the influenza strain of H1N1 held Nov. 13 brought out high risk groups to get immunized but turned away other

  • Nov. 17, 2009 5:00 a.m.

Wind whips fire: Ponoka RCMP and firefighters responded to a brushfire west of Ponoka Nov. 17. Strong winds re-ignited embers in an old pile of brush at Morskate Manufacturing. Trying to stay ahead of the flames

By Jasmine Franklin

The first Ponoka vaccination clinic for the influenza strain of H1N1 held Nov. 13 brought out high risk groups to get immunized but turned away others.

Joan Compton, 75, walked up to the admitting table on the day of the clinic hoping to receive her vaccination for H1N1. Compton thought she might be eligible for the shot as she had a heart attack in June, but what she got, was a polite rejection.

“I guess there are other groups that are more susceptible,” Compton said. “I am willing to wait, I’ve been waiting patiently thus far.”

Since Compton didn’t fall in the age groups of five to 17 years old or 45 to 64 years old with a chronic illness, she was denied the vaccine. However, Compton was told that since she occasionally watches her young grandchildren, if she were to obtain a letter from the children’s mother confirming Compton is a caregiver, she would then be eligible for the vaccination.

“I guess I might as well get the letter,” she said. “I’ve waited so long already.”

As of Nov. 16, high-risk groups eligible for the vaccine are: children over six months and under five years; people with chronic conditions between five and 64 years old including heart and lung disease and diabetes. Other groups include caregivers of people who cannot get vaccinated, pregnant women, the homeless, infants under six months old, people with suppressed immune systems, first responders such as firefighters and police officers, and frontline health care workers.

“Hi, how old are you?,” Mike Mcknight, public health inspector said greeting patients. “Do you have a chronic health condition?”

People were then either directed into the gymnasium filled with H1N1 vaccines where they would need proof of their health problems or they got as far as the admitting table and were sent home.

The clinic was open from 1 to 7 p.m. and by 2 p.m., there was already an estimated 80 people vaccinated.

Ashlee Pollard, 10, has chronic asthma and is in one of those high-risk groups and one of the first 80 people to get vaccinated. Her mother, Merry, made sure she, Ashlee, and ex-husband Barry were protected against H1N1. That does however leave her 14-year-old son at risk for H1N1. Because he doesn’t have a chronic illness he is not considered in the high-risk group.

“We are just seeing now how sick people are getting,” Ms. Pollard said. “It’s important we got the shot, these conditions could put us in serious harm if we were to get sick.”

As Ashlee focused on counting images on the wall in front of her, a small dose of H1N1 was injected into her little body and it wasn’t until speaking to the Ponoka News that she felt it.

“I didn’t want to get it,” Ashlee said as she lay on a mat in the gymnasium floor with a box of orange juice.

“But it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Ms. Pollard told her daughter.

Karen Deckert, public health nurse and leader of the program, said the clinic got a higher response than she had anticipated. Deckert added that although vaccine distribution has been an issue, Alberta Health Services is doing a great job with the restricted manpower and resources they have.

“The main concern here is that those who are at a higher risk get immunized first and foremost,” Deckert said. “It was a wise decision to roll out the vaccine to those in the highest risk groups first. Another big part of that is also because they don’t have enough manpower or resources to immunize everyone just yet; you have to do what you can with what you’ve got.”

Mers. Pollard agreed that Alberta Health is doing the best they can but believes that the government wasn’t as prepared as they should have been.

“I think the government jumped in too hastily,” she said. “They should have made a better plan; it’s very frustrating for every age group because everyone wants it just to be safe.”

Emergency personnel and seniors over 75 years old are the latest groups Alberta Health Services added to the immunization list Nov. 17.

On Nov. 19 the list will be expanded to include those 65 years old and older.

According to Alberta Health, as of Nov. 13 there had been 38 deaths in Alberta and 755 Albertans hospitalized from H1N1 since April 2009.

For updated information visit www.albertahealthservices.ca

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