Alberta Health Services officials have opened influenza immunization clinics province-wide, in the hopes of getting Albertans aged six months and older to get their flu shot.

The start of the annual flu immunization program also marks the first time all Albertans aged 2 to 17-years of age will have the option of taking the ‘FluMist’ nasal spray instead of a needle.

In early October, when AHS announced the spray would be available for this age group, officials said the spray was more effective for that age bracket than a needle.

Now, officials hope more people will get vaccinated.

“Immunization rates across alberta are somewhere around the high 20 percent, so somewhere around 30 percent, so ideally we’d like it as high as possible,” Dr. Christopher Sikora, AHS Medical Officer of Health for the Edmonton Zone said. ”There’s a number of populations that are at a very high risk of getting sick, and we want those populations to have especially high immunization rates.”

“I think it comes down to complacency, or a certain amount of comfort people have with influenza.”

The flu shot is recommended for all Albertans, and those that are considered to be at a higher risk of contracting severe complications from the flu, such as children aged between 6 and 23 months, anyone over 65 years of age, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions are all encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Schedules and locations for flu clinics can be found online, or through Health Link Alberta (in Edmonton call 780-408-LINK (5465), those outside of Edmonton can call the toll-free line at 1-866-408-LINK).

The vaccine will also be available via some pharmacies, and doctor’s offices.