Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flu-shot clinics to reopen Wednesday

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WINNIPEG - All 12 of Winnipeg’s flu clinics will reopen Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. to vaccinate people at high risk of becoming severely ill from H1N1.

People who can receive the shot include:

  • children aged six months to five years,
  • anyone of aboginal ancestry,
  • people under 55 with a chronic medical condition or other risk factor, and
  • pregnant women.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokeswoman Heidi Graham had earlier said that vaccinations would resume as soon as the next batch of H1N1 vaccine arrives.

"We're not saying or disclosing or predicting on a day-to-day basis how much vaccine is coming because it's unknown what is coming down and when," Dr. Joel Kettner said late Monday.

Across Manitoba -- and Canada -- demand for the vaccine has outstripped the supply, and clinics in Winnipeg and other parts of the province that wee running low were forced to temporarily shut down until the next batch arrives. Late last week, the federal government warned Manitoba Health the province will receive just 15,500 doses of the vaccine in the next batch, instead of the 72,000 doses expected.

Opposition politicians say the vaccine should have been rationed better from the start. Manitoba rolled out flu clinics last week, but city clinics did not turn away queue-jumpers not on the priority list until Monday.

"They should have enforced this since the start," said Dawn Pomarenski, a nurse who stood in line at the Garden City Shopping Centre flu clinic Monday morning with her three children, all of whom qualify as highest-risk. "In Brandon, they enforced priority since the beginning, why didn't Winnipeg? People who are higher-risk should be served first."

Frustrated Winnipeggers stood hours in line to snag a dose of the dwindling vaccine supply on Monday before the clinics shut down.

Jill Fletcher said she tried several times last week to get to a clinic, but had to leave because the long lines were too much for her five-year-old daughter, Allana.

"We both need the vaccine because Allana is asthmatic and I'm diabetic and asthmatic, but the lineups were just too much for a five-year-old."

Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen said rationing should have been implemented when the clinics first opened and called on newly minted Premier Greg Selinger to demonstrate better leadership. McFadyen said the government's approach has contributed to long lineups at vaccination clinics and problems getting the limited amount of vaccine to at-risk groups.

"He may as well be golfing for lack of interest he's shown in the file since he became premier," McFadyen said.

A government spokesperson said Health Minister Theresa Oswald is doing a capable job of handling the H1N1 outbreak.

Kettner said health officials had no idea what demand for the vaccine would be like. The federal government had expected to have more vaccine available by now, but the manufacturer fell behind because it had to make a special vaccine for pregnant women.

Kettner said it's too early to pass judgment on whether the vaccine should have been better rationed.

As many as a third of Manitobans could be infected with H1N1 by the end of the second wave, he said. "We are in a bit of a race."

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority considered screening the public last week, but opted not to because of concern that would slow the vaccination process.

Dr. Sande Harlos, a WRHA medical officer of health, said screening would have required additional staff the health authority didn't have. Between 60 and 80 extra staff were deployed at the 12 clinics Monday to screen for those considered the highest priority. Harlos said staffing was the major reasons no clinics were scheduled last weekend.

When clinics resume, health officials will focus their vaccination efforts on people at highest risk of severe illness, including children aged six months to less than five years old, anyone of aboriginal ancestry, people under 55 with a severe chronic medical or other risk conditions and pregnant women.

Kettner said no one knows how long the second wave will last, and it is still a good idea for the general public to get the vaccine even if the second wave of flu is well underway. In the meantime, he said Manitobans should cover their coughs, wash their hands and stay home if they're sick. People who think they need care should contact their medical provider, and people who experience difficulty breathing, severe or worsening symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.


-- With files from Bruce Owen, Eva Cohen and The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2009 A3


Updated on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 11:13 AM CST: Winnipeg flu clinics will likely reopen by the end of this week when the next shipment of vaccine arrives. Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokeswoman Heidi Graham said vaccinations will resume as soon as the next batch of H1N1 vaccine arrives, which is likely sometime later this week. Incorrect information appeared in today's Free Press.

4:25 PM: Adds information on Wednesday openings for Winnipeg clinics.

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