Health Canada Fucks Up HINI Rollout.
Ont. to receive 170,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine, fraction of million expectedThe Canadian Press
Healthy people in Ontario are warned to stay away from H1N1 clinics, which will only be open to high-priority groups, because health units will receive just a fraction of the doses of vaccine they had been expecting from the federal government.
The province's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arlene King said Friday the province will receive about 170,000 doses of the adjuvanted vaccine and 86,800 doses of the unadjuvanted vaccine next week -- a little over a quarter of the 722,000 doses it received in prior weeks.
"For next week we will receive a lower supply of the vaccine than had been originally anticipated due to reduced production by the vaccine's supplier," she said.
The federal government has rolled out approximately six million doses so far and Ontario's portion has totalled about 2.2 million. The province is receiving nearly half of the reduced quantities, around 400,000 doses of the adjuvanted version, and 200,000 of the unadjuvanted version, being shipped out to provinces next week.
Adjuvants are compounds that boost the immune response to the vaccine, allowing lower doses to be used.
Delivery of the H1N1 vaccine has been slowed across the country because the Quebec manufacturer was asked to make special unadjuvanted batches of the product for pregnant women.
The World Health Organization said Friday the adjuvanted vaccine could be given to pregnant women, but King said the WHO's July advice that pregnant women should get adjuvant-free vaccine was what prompted its production in Canada.
"The production of unadjuvanted vaccine was one of the reasons why there is not as much vaccine available now."
Local health units were making preparations Friday to implement more efficient waiting systems for what they thought would be a wider rollout of the vaccine Monday, after coping with an influx of flu shot hopefuls who lined up for hours in many communities.
But King said local health units agreed to overhaul plans when she told them about the reduced quantity of the vaccine. She advised them not to give out the vaccine to anyone who does not fall into one of six priority groups.
"Obviously, it would be desirable to continue to have the supply we had, but I think the strategy we agreed on is the best way right now to mitigate serious illness and death as result of infection of H1N1."
Priority groups of people most vulnerable to the flu include pregnant women, children under five, health-care workers, care givers for those who are vulnerable and unable to get the vaccine, people under 65 with pre-existing health conditions, and those who live in remote or isolated communities.
King said people waiting in queue will be questioned about why they are there to weed out members of the general public who are jumping the line.
The delivery slowdown compounded frustrations at Ontario clinics already overwhelmed by a higher than expected demand for the vaccine. Some had to turn away high-risk patients because lines were too long, others ran out of the vaccine.
Dr. Suzanne Strasberg, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said doctors are frustrated because they are being inundated with calls but have been largely removed from the rollout, adding that lines would be eased if public health units involved more community physicians. She said they could immunize tens of thousands of per day.
"If we're going to mass immunize people we need to get people into their doctor's office to get their shots there, that's how it's always done," Strasberg said.
Health officials and many waiting in line for the vaccine agreed the deaths of two young people in the province this week put a human face on the virus and spurred many people to get the shot.
"I'm sure the tragic deaths of the two children in the past ten days ago has frightened a lot of people and made them consider the vaccine when they may not have before," Strasberg said.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province is doing everything it can to get to as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, adding the good news is that many more families interested in getting than even a few days ago.
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews abruptly left the Liberal party's annual general meeting in Windsor, Ont., on Friday and flew back to Toronto to speak with King about how the province will deal with the shortage.
"We will revise our plan," she said. "I think a lot of people are going to be very disappointed, and I am certainly one of them."
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak called on McGuinty to "fix this mess" so people who actually need the shot don't lose confidence in the system or simply balk at the long lines.
Hudak said Friday everyone is disturbed by images of pregnant women and young children being forced to line up outside for hours.
Meanwhile, the rate of influenza-like activity in the province is above average for this time of year, and rising, King said.
Ontario's Health Ministry says there are 4,814 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu virus reported and 30 deaths reported among confirmed H1N1 cases.
King says the rollout of the vaccine is still weeks ahead of the original schedule, adding that the allotment is expected to increase again "within several weeks," and that everyone who wants to be immunized can expect to receive the shot by Christmas.