About 1 in 5 Canadians immunized against H1N1: chief health officer

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 swine flu.

Dr. David Butler-Jones says about 20 per cent of the population has received the H1N1 shot in the last three weeks. Canada has about 33 million people.

WINNIPEG — 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 swine flu.

Dr. David Butler-Jones says 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 he was 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.”

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told the House of Commons some jurisdictions will have completed their vaccinations by the end of this week.

“We had said all along that we were trying to complete the vaccination program by December. In fact, we were early in the rollout of our campaign across the country,” she said. “By the end of this week, we will have over 10.4 million vaccines in provinces and territories.”

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 swine flu first hit in April, had received shots as of last week.

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.

“Every death is tragic, but the fact that we’ve had as few deaths as we’ve had and as few serious cases is testimony to everybody working to address this disease,” he said. “This is actually a model of success.”

The vaccine rollout has come under serious criticism since immunization clinics opened across the country a few weeks ago. Although pregnant women were considered a top priority, the vaccine which was recommended for expectant mothers had to be shipped from Australia and took several weeks before it was available in Canada.

Other people waited hours in lengthy lineups at mass immunization clinics. Some — such as Calgary Flames hockey players — jumped the queue in Alberta and were given the shot privately. Many clinics across the country had to shut down entirely for days because of a national vaccine shortage.

Despite that shortfall, some vaccine has had to be thrown out because of its short shelf life. Officials with some of the larger health districts, including Toronto and Halifax, say they have tossed about one per cent of their vaccine because it had expired.

In Manitoba, a shipment of 1,000 doses was wasted after it was stored in a freezer instead of a refrigerator.

“It is a small percentage in the total,” Butler-Jones said. “Obviously everyone wants to minimize that but, at the end of the day, we’re fortunate in Canada that we will have sufficient vaccine for everybody.”

Despite initial problems, Butler-Jones said vaccine shipments are now flowing well, which will mean even more people will be eligible to get the shot soon. There will be several million doses available this week and another three million doses are expected next week, he said.

“Very quickly, I think access will continue to improve. We’re still on target that by the end of the year, hopefully before Christmas, anybody who wishes to be immunized will be.”

A more expanded campaign is already in the works in Alberta, where the government announced Monday it will start offering vaccinations to the general public this week, although they will be phased in and start with people over 75.

Health Minister Ron Liepert said the vaccine supply has improved to the point that shots no longer have to be limited to high-risk groups.

But federal Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett contends that there will be people across the country who will have to wait until the new year to get a shot — too late to escape the peak of the virus expected in December. Some 35 other countries beat Canada to the punch in ordering the vaccine for the second wave of the pandemic, she said.

Just Posted

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Photos: Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

Clearwater regional firefighters in B.C.

Crew operating west of Prince George

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

WATCH: Feasting at Red Deer Ribfest this weekend

Ribfest runs until Sunday at Rotary Recreation Park

Street Tales: Life is filled with unlearned lessons

There are days that I almost believe evolutionists in that we are… Continue reading

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

OTTAWA — Canadians are generally supportive of current immigration levels, a survey… Continue reading

Quebec announces plan to compensate taxi drivers after Uber’s arrival

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has outlined how it intends to compensate… Continue reading

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

OTTAWA — The loss of Saudi Arabian resident physicians in Canada’s hospitals… Continue reading

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Death Valley worker has seen highest, lowest temperatures

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of tourists descend on Death Valley each summer… Continue reading

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

BANFF, Alta. — An internationally known ski resort in Banff National Park… Continue reading

Folk singer Ian Tyson cancels show due to ‘serious medical situation’

TORONTO — Canadian folk singer-songwriter Ian Tyson has cancelled his appearance at… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month