The Middlesex-London Health Unit is launching its annual influenza immunization campaign this weekend.

The health unit will hold the first of nine flu shot clinics on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre at 656 Elizabeth Street in London.

There will be seven clinics at various London locations and two in Middlesex County. The complete clinic schedule is available on the health unit’s website at:

“Last year was one of the most intense flu seasons in memory with a higher number of outbreaks, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Marlene Price, manager of the vaccine preventable disease said in a statement.

“We’re hoping that recent memory prompts people to get the flu shot this year, whether it’s at one of our clinics, from a health care provider or from a pharmacy.”

Officials say the best way to prevent serious illness and death caused by influenza is to receive the annual influenza vaccination, which is available free of charge to all residents of Ontario six months of age and older.

This year's vaccine protects against two strains of influenza A - including H1N1 and one strain of influenza B.

New this year, people with an egg allergy can get the flu shot, based on new studies that show this to be safe.

Another new development - staff and doctors at London hospitals must have the flu shot or wear a mask when caring for patients if influenza is confirmed in the community.

According to the health unit, during last year's flu season about 56.6 per cent of local hospital staff were vaccinated while 75.5 per cent of staff at long-term care facilities received the vaccine.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit clinics run until Dec. 10.