Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

H1N1 doses expire as people wait

Officials up against 24-hour shelf life

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Some health authorities across the country have tossed out hundreds of doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine because of miscalculations over how many of the time-sensitive dosages are needed at community clinics.

Officials at some of the larger health districts, including Toronto and Halifax, say they have thrown out about one per cent of the total vaccine they've administered because of the dosages' 24-hour shelf life.

In Toronto, that means close to 500 doses of the adjuvanted vaccine have been disposed of even as people remain shut out of the priority groups entitled to receive the shot.

"We reconstitute as much vaccine as we think we're going to need, but sometimes our numbers are a wee bit off," said Ameeta Mathur, manager of the vaccine program for Toronto Public Health.

"Once it's in the syringe from the vial and it's not used, we have to dispose of it."

Mathur said there is little information on the stability of the vaccine once it has been reconstituted and drawn into a syringe. Once the solution is in the syringe, she said it can't be put back in the vial nor can they use syringes the next day because of the lack of data on the vaccine's stability.

The vaccine is reconstituted with the adjuvant, an additive that boosts one's response to the serum, and is then ready to be injected.

But the clock starts ticking on the dose 24 hours after that.

Manitoba health officials couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.

In Nova Scotia, health workers have thrown out 80 doses because they have been unable to get them into arms before the 24-hour expiry mark.

John Gillis, spokesman for the Capital District Health Authority, said they are trying to avoid discarding doses by shuttling them to other clinics. But they are basing what they need in the run of a day from what they've seen previously and sometimes get it wrong. "They reach the end of the day and they've got some unused supply that won't make it to the next day."

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief public health officer, said he understands the news might be frustrating for groups still waiting to get immunized but officials are trying to keep waste to a minimum.

Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nunavut said they also have no reports of discarded doses.

-- The Canadian Press

Santa urges caution

SANTA has a message for parents bringing their children to visit him at the mall this holiday season: Ho-ho-hold your little ones at home if they've got H1N1 flu.

And with fears of H1N1 sweeping the country, shopping centres are taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus.

Santa and his helpers will be ready to greet boys and girls with hand-sanitizer and wipes.

Jennifer Andrews, who runs the internationally known Santa School in Calgary, said the good news this year is that talking about germs around Santa will be more acceptable.

"Previously, parents looked at us like 'What are you talking about?' " Andrews said.

As they train dozens of Santas, the school is using the threat of H1N1 to remind them -- and the malls where they've been hired -- about the importance of good hygiene. That includes, among other things, reminding trainees to wash their beards daily.

And as long as parents heed advice to keep their sick children at home, public health officials say there's no need to sack the cherished tradition of children hopping up on Santa's knee and whispering their wishes in his ear.

However, many malls across the country were reluctant to discuss details of what they are doing to help prevent the H1N1 spread. A mall spokesman in Winnipeg worried that commenting on their plans would send the wrong message.

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has corrected the hours that H1N1 flu shot clinics will be open this week.

Immunization clinic hours are Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 16, 2009 A3

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