Thousands of Edmontonians inched along in snail’s-pace lineups yesterday, hoping for a syringe-full of the recently approved H1N1 vaccine.

Health officials are urging all Albertans, especially those at high risk for infection, to take advantage of the free mass-immunization.

“H1N1 is just the flu,” Alberta’s medical officer of health Dr. Gerry Predy said. “But the issue is, the more people that have it, the more people at high risk are going to get it.”

The health authority is asking high-risk individuals to come for the shot in the first few days of the program, including those under 65 with chronic illness, pregnant women, children under age five and caregivers for infants or immune-compromised people.

Alberta Health Services staff bore the brunt of complaints on wait times yesterday. Some waited up to four hours before receiving the vaccine at one of five free clinics in the city.

“We were a little hesitant — our family has never been vaccinated before, and we don’t know what the risks may be,” Julie Neilsen said while waiting in line at the Westmount Centre clinic.

Despite public skepticism, Alberta Health Services officials insist side-effects won’t go beyond rash or allergy. “It’s as safe as any other vaccine,” Predy said.

H1N1 is the most predominant virus affecting people in Alberta at present. Doctors will no longer give H1N1 tests to patients who aren’t ill enough to require hospitalization, Predy said, adding if people have flu-like symptoms, they can safely assume they’re infected with H1N1.

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