H1N1 vaccination kicks off across Canada
2009-Oct-27 13:32:56

H1N1 vaccination kicks off across Canada
Ken Weber laughs with with health practitioners while getting his H1N1 influenza vaccination in Vancouver, British Columbia October 26, 2009. Health care workers across the country began administrating H1N1 influenza vaccine shots across the country. [Agencies]

VANCOUVER: Widespread H1N1 vaccine programs started to roll out Monday from coast to coast in Canada for people with high risks catching the deadly flu. Meanwhile, the country has bought more non-adjuvanted vaccine from Australia for pregnant women.

People lined up for shots in clinics in 10 provinces and two territories, as part of the largest immunization campaign in the country.

Those who were among the first immunized include pregnant women past their 20th week, adults under 65 with chronic medical conditions, aboriginal people living in remote and isolated setting or communities as well as health-care workers. They are considered the most vulnerable for the H1N1 virus.

But the availability of vaccine varies from region to region. Local health authorities provide information about related clinic times and locations in their websites.

In British Columbia, people who fall into the high-risk group and for whom the seasonal flu vaccine is normally recommended are able to receive both shots at the same time.

Starting the week of November 2, the people eligible to receive the H1N1 vaccine will expand to children from six months to less than five years of age, health-care workers, household contacts and care providers of infants less than six months of age and people who are immunocompromised.

Everyone else who needs and wants the H1N1 vaccine will have a chance to receive it in mid-November.

In Calgary, capital city of Alberta, only four clinics are offering the shots, leading people to wait in long line for hours and some to give up. Facing the public complaints, Alberta health officials say the H1N1 shot won't be offered in such settings as doctors' offices and workplaces until mid-November.

Unlike some other provinces, Alberta isn't offering the free shot exclusively for priority groups.

In Quebec, health-care professionals, first responders and long-term care patients are the first to get shots, while officials say priority will be given to small children, pregnant women and people with ill health. Mass vaccination centers will be open to the general public next week.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest on weekend encouraged public to take advantage of the vaccination program, which he described as voluntary and free.

Hundreds of students and staff at a high school, about 250 km east of Quebec City, have been vaccinated in advance over the weekend, following a small outbreak of the H1N1 flu at the school, where more than a dozen students were infected. Health officials in the region say the cases were mild.

In Ontario, the rollout came days after the second wave of the pandemic H1N1 flu had been confirmed to affect the area, with 28 deaths and 31 people currently in hospital. A total of 722,000 doses of the vaccine arrived at Ontario's 36 local health units on Friday and a second shipment of vaccine is expected this week.

Health officials hope to see a higher immunization rates in their seasonal flu campaign. They said there will be enough vaccine for everyone who needs and wants it, but people will need to be patient and let the priority group get shot first.

With the H1N1 cases increasing in Canada, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Monday that the federal government has secured an additional supply of 200,000 doses of non-adjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women.

She said that the special order placed on Australian pharmaceutical company would help solve the concerns from pregnant women about having to wait for the non-adjuvanted vaccine, a form of vaccine that does not contain an additive, known as an adjuvant, that boosts the body's response to the vaccine.

Canada has already ordered 1.8 million doses of vaccine without the adjuvant from its own manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. The additional doses from Australia mean that Canadian pregnant women could start using this version of vaccine next week, about a week earlier.

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