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Some 1/3 of Ont vaccinated against H1N1 - health official says 'not good enough'

Ontario remains far from its goal of vaccinating three quarters of its population against H1N1, Ontario’s top health official said Friday.

“To date about 30 per cent of the province’s population has been immunized against H1N1,” said Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“While that’s good, I will tell you, quite frankly it’s not good enough.”

The target is to vaccinate 75 per cent of the population, and King said it’s not fully known what degree of coverage a population needs to stop the spread of the flu.

“We are far from being in the clear. Many people are still susceptible,” she said.

“The best way to prevent more cases of the flu is for everyone to roll up their sleeves and get the shot.”

When vaccination clinics first opened last month to administer the shot to high-risk groups the demand was so great that families waited for hours in snaking lineups, some in the rain.

After the initial crush the demand dropped dramatically and several health units announced plans to close their mass vaccination clinics.

About 100 mass clinics were initially set up. Now, many of the vaccinations will be administered by family physicians or delivered in offices. So far, 299 organizations have been approved to set up clinics in the workplace.

King assured people on Friday that the H1N1 vaccination was highly effective.

“I think people plan to be immunized and I trust people will make the right decision,” she said.

“We want to continue to saturate the population with vaccine and not with virus.”

About 45 per cent of the people hit with the flu are under the age of 20 and the province has been aggressively campaigning college and university students to get the shot.

Ontario has seen 106 deaths from H1N1 and 1,672 hospitalizations since April. The national death toll was 357 as of Thursday.

Ontario also announced on Friday that it will being offering seasonal flu shots after having limited that vaccine to people over age 65.

She said it was important for people to get both vaccinations, as she dismissed notions that people in the province would get vaccination fatigue.

“We want to get ahead of the game here. We want to get ahead of the curve,” said King, adding that both vaccines can be administered safely at the same time.

The province reports an average of 9,000 cases of seasonal flu each year and approximately 500 deaths.

Also on Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said there have been 48 cases of a severe allergic reaction reported in people who have had H1N1 shots.

The agency says that was as of the week of Nov. 20, when nearly 12.3 million doses of vaccine had been distributed across the country.

The rate of anaphylactic reactions is 0.39 per 100,000 doses, which the agency says doesn’t exceed the normal rate seen for the administration of vaccines.

Anaphylaxis is the type of severe allergic reaction seen in people with severe food or insect sting allergies and must be treated quickly with adrenaline.

The Public Health Agency says one of the cases of anaphylaxis was fatal and is being investigated.