CALGARY — Just hours before the Alberta government temporarily suspended swine flu clinics due to a national shortage of vaccine, tempers flared in the long lineups that had formed outside clinics in Calgary and Edmonton.
A few profanity-laced arguments could be heard around the main entrance of a clinic in southwest Calgary after security officials announced no more patients would be allowed inside. Hundreds had already spent hours waiting in long lineups to be vaccinated.
A man carrying his young son was among the first to be told that he was being turned away and the immunization clinic suspended just after 10 a.m.
“This is the fifth time I’ve tried coming to one of these,” he yelled in frustration. “My wife is a (registered nurse) and I have a two-year-old, what are we supposed to do? This is ridiculous.”
Seeing people waiting in line and holding spots for others was frustrating for Gary Fitzpatrick, who arrived just after 6 a.m. with his son Martin, daughter Jolene Varndell and her 11-month-old son, Evan.
“I’m sorry, but we’re standing in line with an 11-month-old. You shouldn’t be able to have one person wait then bring in their entire family.”
By around 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, about 3,500 people had gathered outside an immunization centre in northeast Calgary before its gates were shut.
Suffering from emphysema and asthma, Ramona Malloy, 65, and husband Mike were among the last people let inside the centre’s yard.
“They need better organization, especially for the elderly, pregnant and the little ones,” said Ramona who needs an oxygen tank to breathe and uses a walker.
In Edmonton, Maurice Nzoyamara and his five-year-old son were also turned away at a clinic set up in a shopping mall. Because of work commitments, Saturday’s immunization clinic was the only one he and his son could get to.
Children between six months and five-years-old are among the priority groups to receive the shot, according to Alberta Health Services.
“For me it’s very important we get these shots, especially for my son. I am a little worried but maybe next week,” Nzoyamara said.
Last week, provincial health officials said while they would not turn anyone away, they asked that healthy people step aside and let those in high-risk groups be vaccinated first.
That changed Saturday when they announced that the clinics would be suspended. When clinics resume, people who don’t meet the proper criteria will be turned away, said Dr. Gerry Predy, the chief medical officer for Alberta Health Services.
Pregnant women and adults under 65 with chronic health conditions have also been identified as being at high risk to become very ill with swine flu.
Leiann Aloisio, 28, who is due to deliver her first child Nov. 5, said there’s a clear need for priority queues for those who need the vaccine most.
“Sick elderly people and children are not being given priority, they’re all just thrown together,” she said.
“I’m worried that there’s going to be a shortage of the vaccine and high-risk groups won’t be given the consideration that they need.”