CALGARY — Alberta’s health minister and the province’s chief medical health officer say they don’t think it was a mistake to say that nobody would be turned away if they wanted a swine flu shot.
Because of a shortage of vaccine, clinics in Alberta have been temporarily suspended while officials come up with rules on how to screen people to make sure that only those in high-risk groups are being vaccinated.
Dr. Andre Corriveau says in not refusing anyone, they thought to avoid situations where, for example, a child in a high-risk group may get vaccinated but the mother and siblings who’ve also been waiting in line were turned down.
He also says nobody could have anticipated the public demand for the vaccine.
Ron Liepert, the province’s health minister, says it was not a mistake to vaccinate everyone who showed up because roughly 400,000 Albertans have now been immunized and that will help the health-care system.
Corriveau says they’re still developing plans on how they will screen people when clinics resume, likely sometime this week.
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Alberta’s Opposition Liberals want the health minister to resign after a decision to temporarily suspend all swine flu vaccination clinics, the party’s leader said Sunday.
A national shortage of vaccine has left Alberta and other provinces scrambling to rejig their vaccination programs amid an outpouring of public anger.
Thousands have lined up at long lineups, possible queue-jumping by healthy people, and confusion over what happens next.
Dr. David Swann, who is also a physician, stood outside a closed clinic in Calgary as he accused Liepert of mismanaging the province’s pandemic response.
“This closure is evidence this government has no capacity to manage our pandemic. It’s further evidence of negligence, political interference and mismanagement at a high level,” he said.
Alberta’s pandemic plan, which public health officials have had access to for years, made a commitment to vaccinate only high-risk individuals first, Swann said. But that plan was apparently tossed out the window, perhaps to make political points with the public, he said.
“For some reason this government chose to subvert that and open the gates to everyone. As a result we have the chaos we have today with ambiguous messaging, increasing anxiety. All of it (was) unneccessary.”
When clinics began a week ago, the provincial government asked that the general public stay away and allow high-risk groups to be vaccinated, including pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions and young children. But health officials also said that nobody would be turned away from those clinics if they wanted a shot.
That attitude changed Saturday when Dr. Gerry Predy, the chief medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services, announced the immediate closure of vaccination clinics. He said that when clinics resume, those who don’t fit the proper criteria will be turned away.
A spokesman for the health minister said Liepert wasn’t immediately available for comment.
“The premier’s incoherent response to a serious public health problem is putting our entire population at risk. Mr. Liepert has show he’s not up to the challenge and if he can’t handle a province-wide flu clinic, how can he manage a complex province-wide health system,” Swann said.
The Liberal leader says when clinics reopen, they should focus on those at high risk of serious illness and should be equipped to handle long lineups with people who have chronic health problems and those with small children.