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Frustrations mount as vaccines run dry

Long lineups, vaccine shortages and the suspension of immunization clinics are frustrating western Canadians seeking immunity to the H1N1 flu virus.

On Oct. 26, clinics in Alberta began administering H1N1 vaccinations to the general public but throughout the province, communities reported long lineups and insufficient doses of vaccine.

By Oct. 31, the province announced it was suspending public immunization clinics indefinitely due to limited vaccine supplies.

Dennis Sherbanuk of Camrose received his vaccination on Oct. 28.

He said the clinic should have been better organized.

“The temperature right now is about two degrees above freezing, it’s sleeting, and when I was at the clinic two hours ago, there were probably a thousand people standing outside.”

He said he wasn’t sure why people had to wait outside in the cold.

The clinic was held at the Camrose Regional Exhibition building, and Sherbanuk said there would have been enough space for people to wait inside where it was warmer.

“The thing that got me was the crying little babies, and the cute little kids. They were cold,” he said.

While waiting to get his shot, Sherbanuk heard rumours that the clinic didn’t have enough vaccine to supply everyone in line.

Shortages common

Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services, said shortages were common.

“There was a shortage in Camrose … and several other communities in the province.”

Stewart said vaccine supplies in Alberta were distributed according to population.

Some people sought vaccination at other locations, which could have affected calculations, he said.

By late last week, the province had suspended immunization clinics completely.

“On Saturday (Oct. 31) Health and Wellness … ordered the suspension of all immunization clinics in the province of Alberta due to the reduced national supply of H1N1 vaccine. And that suspension remains in effect until further notice,” said Stewart.

Information about the release of the vaccine was expected to be announced after The Western Producer’s Nov. 2 deadline.

Alberta isn’t the only province experiencing supply problems. Last week, Health Canada announced that provinces across the country wouldn’t be receiving as much vaccine as anticipated.

“The issue of the suspension certainly is not something that was in the control of Alberta Health Services, and is not unique to Alberta. It’s strictly an issue of reduced national supply,” Stewart said.

Supply shortages have prompted health regions across Canada to alter eligibility criteria.

Manitoba and Alberta were expecting to administer the vaccine to high-risk groups only, and Saskatchewan has narrowed its high-risk list.

Provinces said last week they were unsure when general immunizations would be available.

Information regarding immunization clinics can be found on the websites of local health regions.

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