Alberta revamps program to limit flu shots to pregnant women, youngsters for now

EDMONTON — After a week of confusion that saw swine flu clinics suspended throughout the province, Alberta has rolled out a new vaccine program that focuses on young children and pregnant women.

EDMONTON — After a week of confusion that saw swine flu clinics suspended throughout the province, Alberta has rolled out a new vaccine program that focuses on young children and pregnant women.

The revamped plan calls for clinics to reopen Thursday, but only for children between six months and under five years of age. Alberta Health Services says parents will have to show proof of their children’s ages or they will be turned away.

On Friday, the program is to be expanded to include pregnant women.

Everyone else, including people with chronic health conditions and emergency workers such as police, firefighters and paramedics must wait until more vaccine becomes available, said Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief medical health officer.

“I ask all Albertans to be patient as we deal with the vaccine supply shortage and remind all there will be enough vaccine for everyone who needs or wants it,” Corriveau said.

The relaunch came after the province closed vaccine clinics on Saturday, ending days of frustrating lineups by healthy Albertans and people from higher risk groups who were responding to the government’s call for everyone to get vaccinated.

Health officials originally offered shots to all residents last week while asking healthy people to give high-risk groups priority.

Alberta expects to have about 280,000 doses of the vaccine available this week. Health officials said about 2 per cent of the vaccine, which only lasts for about one day after it is opened, has been lost to wasteage so far.

The new strategy is a major change for Alberta Health Services, which had been saying that offering the vaccine to everyone would mean fewer people would be able to spread the virus.

Health officials would not estimate when the vaccine would be available to the general public.

Corriveau said word that members of the Calgary Flames and their families received the vaccine last Friday at a special clinic took him by surprise. He said he learned of it from media reports.

Corriveau and Dr. Gerry Preddy, senior medical officer of health, declined to answer questions about why the Flames got their shots without waiting in line.

“We both learned of this in the newspaper this morning,” Corriveau said.

“It is unfortunate and I can’t defend it,” Preddy said. “It is under investigation and we have to try and get to understand how that happened.”

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