Health Minister Jerome Kennedy estimates the number of people in the province vaccinated against the H1N1 virus to now be between 115,000 and 120,000.
During a media briefing Tuesday at the Confederation Building, the minister said the uptake of the vaccine has been high in all regions of the province this week.
"In fact, yesterday the numbers indicate between 9,000 and 10,000 people were immunized," he said.
Dr. Faith Stratton, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the number of people hospitalized in the province with influenza-like illness (ILI) appears to be on a "downswing," but she doesn't want to be too quick to draw conclusions because the numbers could fluctuate upwards again.
In the 24-period from 8 a.m. Monday to 8 a.m. Tuesday, Stratton said, there were 30 new admissions to hospital. Two patients were admitted to intensive care units and one of those patients was put on a ventilator to assist with breathing.
"That brings us to 103 in the province now who are admitted with ILI, and 20 of those are in intensive care units, 14 are on ventilators," Stratton said.
ILI is a term used for flu-related symptoms before lab test results are available to confirm whether each case is H1N1 positive or another respiratory illness.
Stratton said most of the seriously ill patients recently have been hospitalized in the Eastern Health region. However, she said, some of them may be patients who were transferred from other regions to Eastern Health hospitals.
She said her department plans to do a detailed analysis of infection in various age groups and based on regions, but that information isn't yet available.
Kennedy said the immunization of junior high school students will take place this week and a lot of them should be vaccinated in various parts of the province by the end of this week.
In the St. John's region, he said, junior high vaccinations will likely continue into early next week. Eastern Health said Tuesday its junior high vaccination schedule was set to begin today.
Vaccinations for people up to 64 years of age with chronic illnesses are also continuing this week and, as announced Sunday, Kennedy said, these adults will be offered unadjuvanted vaccine when the supply of adjuvanted doses runs out later this week.
The adjuvanted doses contain ingredients to provide a stronger immune system boost in reaction to the antigen, whereas the unadjuvanted doses don't contain these immune-boosting ingredients.
Initially the unadjuvanted vaccine was brought in to vaccinate pregnant women who might be concerned about taking the adjuvanted vaccine. Kennedy said Health Canada has since indicated that the unadjuvanted vaccine is safe and effective for individuals between the ages of 10 and 64, so they will be given the choice to take it or wait until next week when the province receives its next shipment of adjuvanted doses.
"So now the next step, we're waiting for how much vaccine we will get next week and that will determine where we will go with our next criteria groups," Kennedy said, explaining that the criteria will be decided in discussions with the CEOs of each health authority and medical health officers.
Eastern Health CEO Vicki Kaminski, meanwhile, provided further information Tuesday to explain why prisoners at Her Majesty's Penitentiary were vaccinated in late October.
The Telegram reported Nov. 4 that Kennedy and Stratton confirmed inmates and prison employees were vaccinated. At the time, Stratton said, the residential setting prisoners live in and the fact that "penitentiaries tend to have other kinds of personal medical risks" were factors considered.
Kaminski made similar comments Tuesday.
"The inmate population at HMP was identified as an at-risk group that could be accessed quickly and easily during the initial stages of our vaccination program. The vaccination of HMP as a group was taken before we were made aware that we would receive less of the vaccine than originally anticipated."
Kennedy said had Eastern Health known the vaccine supply would be reduced, it probably would have made a different decision. However, he said, the medical reasons at the time "certainly supported" its decision.