Ontario announced its immunization plans for the flu season as public health officials gird to fight swine flu.

"We want Ontarians to be aware but not fearful, to take appropriate measures, to use common sense -- and to get immunized against the flu," Dr. Arlene King, the province's chief medical officer of health, told a news conference on Friday.

The government is introducing two flu immunization programs utilizing a three-phased approach, she said, "Because this year, it's a different flu season."

Phase 1 has already begun. People aged 65 and over who reside in long-term care homes are receiving the seasonal flu shot because they are especially vulnerable to flu-related complications, King said.

In early November, Phase 2 begins. "Ontarians who will benefit the most will be offered the H1N1 vaccine first," King said. The list includes the following:

  • people under 65 with chronic conditions
  • health-care workers
  • persons who live in remote areas
  • pregnant women
  • children aged six months to under five years of age

"After this, all Ontarians who need and want the H1N1 vaccine will be able to get it," King said.

The swine flu vaccine intended for pregnant women will arrive after Nov. 7, she said. 

Phase 3 -- Widespread vaccination for the seasonal flu virus for Ontarians under the age of 65 -- will begin in December at the earliest.

"We have noted that to date, H1N1 is the predominant strain this flu season. That's why it's so important for everyone to get their H1N1 flu shot when it's available," she said.

King said she's seeing a spike in flu-like activity, but wouldn't call it a second wave of swine flu. The cases are popping up in densely-populated areas such as Toronto and Ottawa, she said.

King said research supports hand hygiene as a cornerstone of infection. By that, she means washing with soap and warm water for 15 seconds.

She also said people should get in the habit of coughing or sneezing into their sleeve and to stay home from work when they are sick.

The province hasn't yet listed where flu clinics will be held in its 36 public health units.


Toronto Public Health said seniors can start getting free seasonal flu shots on Oct. 22, or next Thursday.

Ten seasonal flu clinics will operate between that date and Oct. 31. The seasonal flu clinics will be held at the following locations and times:

North York Civic Centre (5100 Yonge St.), Committee Room 2

  • October 22, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
  • October 31, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Scarborough Civic Centre (150 Borough Dr.)

  • October 23, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Committee Room 2
  • October 29, 3 p.m. - 7 p.m., Rotunda
  • October 31, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Rotunda

East York Civic Centre (850 Coxwell Ave.)

  • October 23, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Committee Room 2
  • October 28, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Committee Room 3, 4
  • October 30, 3 p.m. - 7 p.m., Room A

Etobicoke Civic Centre (399 The West Mall)

  • October 23, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Room 3
  • October 30, 3 p.m. - 7 p.m., Room 1, 2, 3

Its H1N1 vaccination clinics for the public will start next month. The agency said it will announce its schedule in the near future.

Those who want further information about seasonal or swine flu preparedness in Ontario, call ServiceOntario's INFOline at 1-800-476-9708 (416-327-4282 in Toronto).

Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) can provide advice on the type of medical treatment you might need.

To find a health-care option, call 1-8666-330-6206, and to help find a health-care provider, register for the Health Care Connect program by calling 1-800-455-1822.