A second wave of swine flu in Nova Scotia appears to be underway and the largest immunization drive in the province’s history is about to begin.

 

The province's chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Strang, stressed yesterday everyone should get vaccinated to protect themselves. He said cases of H1N1 have already begun popping up in recent weeks.

 

“I think we are on the beginning of our second wave here in Nova Scotia,” Strang told reporters.

 

That means infections are expected to become more widespread and some people could die.

In particular, high-risk groups are urged to get vaccinated. These include people with chronic conditions, health-care workers, pregnant women and children under the age of five. Children less than six-months-old cannot receive the vaccine.

But pregnant women in Nova Scotia will have to wait until mid-November to get vaccinated. There are two types of vaccine, and the one recommended for pregnant women – unadjuvanted vaccine – won’t be available in the province for several more weeks.

The immunization is free. High-risk groups will also be able to get their normal flu shots at the same time as their H1N1 shot.

Strang emphasized that H1N1 is not like normal flu, which mostly hits the very young and very old. He said working age adults with no underlying health problems are still at risk.

“One third of the people who have died in Canada (from H1N1) have been exactly that – young and healthy. You can take a gamble that you might die from this disease, or you can get a very safe and effective,” he said.

Strang said he has heard concerns about the vaccine but said all clinical data shows it is safe.

“We have a very reputable regulator with scientific expertise that would not license the vaccine if they were not completely comfortable it was safe,” he said.