CALGARY -- The Alberta government has launched an investigation into how members of the Calgary Flames and their families scored H1N1 flu shots at a special clinic Friday as thousands of people waited in line for the vaccine or were turned away.
Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert said he wants to know if the shots were "inappropriately diverted" to the hockey players while other Albertans stood in line for hours.
"There is only one supplier in the province and that's us," he said. "They would only be diverted with the approval of the chief medical officer of health."
Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta's chief medical health officer, said he first learned about the issue through the news media Tuesday and declined to comment due to the investigation.
Ken King, president of the NHL club, said the players and their families received their shots on Friday at a private location. He said the organization contacted Alberta Health Services and requested the clinic based on recommendations from team doctors, the NHL and provincial guidelines in place at the time.
"We thought that we were working within a protocol that Alberta Health Services thought was appropriate," he said. Players are at a high risk of spreading the virus "due to the fact that they have frequent physical contact, onerous domestic and crossborder travel, extreme exertion and, frankly, are in very close contact with other teams," he said Tuesday.
The revelation is one more hit for the Alberta government, which is facing mounting criticism for the way it has managed its H1N1 flu vaccination program.
Opposition politicians charged the hockey players were given special treatment.
The Flames are the only Canadian NHL team accused of queuejumping. The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens all say their players will wait until the vaccine is available to the general public. The Toronto Maple Leafs could not be reached for comment.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla noted that the general public was still able to receive the shot when the team attended the clinic.
"As players, we were following the medical protocol given to us," Iginla said.
-- The Canadian Press, with file from Canwest News Service