Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

1,300 vaccine doses unusable

Most of loss occurred in first week

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Nearly 300 doses of the H1N1 vaccine have been wasted in Winnipeg and another 1,000 doses got frozen by mistake.

But most of the wastage happened in the first, frenzied week the flu clinics were open, an official with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said Monday.

Last week, virtually no vaccine was wasted.

"It's really a very small percentage of the total we've done," said Dr. Sande Harlos, the WRHA's medical officer of health. "We're really happy about the trend going down."

According to the WRHA, about 280 doses have been tossed over the last three weeks because they couldn't be administered before they expired. That's about two doses per clinic for each day clinics were open.

Once the vaccine and the adjuvant have been mixed, the shot has only a 24-hour shelf life before it expires.

But that's not the only deadline nurses need to worry about.

Once the mixed vaccine has been sucked from the vial into a needle, the dose is good for only an hour or four hours in the fridge.

At the city's 12 clinics, volunteers often mix the vaccine and get the needles ready and hand them off to nurses to administer, which speeds the process at busy clinics.

In the last few weeks, they've become much more adept at estimating how many doses to draw, so wastage is way down.

About three per cent of the vaccine was wasted in the first week.

Last week, wastage was down to just 0.07 per cent and nine of the 12 clinics didn't waste one dose.

Across the country, hundreds of doses have been tossed, including 500 in Toronto and another 80 in Halifax.

During the first week Winnipeg's clinics were open, a vaccine shipment with 1,000 doses was accidentally put into a freezer instead of a refrigerator. That shipment had to be tossed.

Harlos said the accident was heartbreaking because the vaccine is in such short supply.

It happened while most of staff who normally deal with vaccines were out getting the immunization clinics ready and steps have been taken to make sure no more doses end up in the deep freeze.

The news of the spoiled vaccines comes as parents and seniors in line for an H1N1 shot were turned away Monday morning because vaccine hadn't arrived yet.

The latest batch of the adjuvanted vaccine was slated to arrive in the province Sunday night, but didn't.

That batch was actually fast-tracked to the province so flu clinics could stay open Monday and Tuesday.

Normally, the province only gets shipments on Wednesdays.

The WRHA didn't find out about the glitch until 45 minutes before the flu shot clinics were slated to open Monday morning.

By that time, hundreds of parents were already lined up at the 12 clinics but were told kids younger than 10 and seniors older that 64 would have to wait until lunchtime or later for the vaccine to arrive.

"A lot of parents left when they were told that," Monica Nobotny said as she waited at the Grant Park clinic with her two young daughters.

Clody Guardado said she was annoyed to learn after standing in line there was no vaccine for her two school-aged children, Sofia, 7, and Alejandro, 5, but was willing to tough it out until the proper vaccine arrived.

"I don't like keeping them out of school if I don't have to but today I'll have to keep them out until the vaccine is here," Guardado said.

WRHA spokeswoman Heidi Graham said the health authority found out about the shortage too late to alert the public Monday morning. And she said the vaccine started to show up at the clinics by about 11 a.m.

"We recognize it wasn't fast enough for a lot people in the line ups," said Graham. "We apologize for the inconvenience."

On Monday morning, most clinics only had the non-adjuvant form of the vaccine -- the kind meant mostly for pregnant women.

It's also fine for people between the ages of 10 and 64. But the elderly and children under 10 ought to take only the adjuvanted vaccine.

The WRHA now has enough vaccine to last the week, and clinics will remain open all week.

So far, more than 126,000 Winnipeggers have received the shot.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Flu developments

"ö The country's chief public health officer says Canada is leading the world when it comes to the percentage of its citizens vaccinated against the H1N1 flu. Dr. David Butler-Jones said about 20 per cent of the population has received the H1N1 shot in the last three weeks. Canada has about 33 million people. "That's just unheard of," he said in an interview while attending an international conference on HIV/AIDS in Winnipeg on Monday. "Already we've immunized more people than anybody else in the world as a percentage of our population."

 

"ö Up to 95 per cent of the people in some remote northern Manitoba reserves, which were given priority because they were hit particularly hard when H1N1 first hit in April, had received shots as of last week.

 

"ö At least 161 Canadians have died from the virus since it surfaced in the spring. But Butler-Jones said Canada hasn't suffered as much as other countries.

"ö The Liberals suggested Monday during question period that it may be 2010 before all Canadians receive the H1N1 vaccine shot. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said this was not the case, and that the government's goal was to have the mass vaccination program complete by Christmas.

"ö The Liberals also criticized the federal government Monday for not paying to get flu materials translated into other languages besides French and English. Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett said the government should help cover the costs to have the information in the 60 or 70 languages needed across Canada.

 

"ö An investigation has been launched after two nurses in Quebec took doses of the H1N1 vaccine home to give to family members. The North Shore health agency said the information came to light Friday and the investigation would in part serve to determine whether other nurses there were responsible for similar actions. Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc said the situation was "unacceptable and regrettable."

 

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2009 A4

History

Updated on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 6:24 AM CST: CLARIFICATION The volunteers assigned to mix the adjuvant and the H1N1 vaccine at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's flu clinics are trained pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and nurses. Redeployed staff are also helping to prepare the flu shots. Unclear information appeared in a story Tuesday.

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