Stelmach admits mistake in way Alberta responded to swine flu pandemic

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach concedes his government could have done a better job rolling out the province’s swine flu vaccination program.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach concedes his government could have done a better job rolling out the province’s swine flu vaccination program.

The premier was responding Thursday to a Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll that found 61 per cent of Albertans surveyed last week said the province has done a poor job handling the H1N1 pandemic.

The premier says many Albertans were probably upset that there were “significant” lineups which forced people to wait up to six hours for their shots.

Stelmach suggests the long lineups might have been avoided if the province’s emergency agency had been asked to help select additional vaccination sites.

“We could have done the job better in terms of involving the Alberta Emergency Management Agency because they know where all of the buildings are in the province that can be used for emergency purposes,” Stelmach told reporters.

“I think the fear was that we’d call it an emergency.”

Health officials confirmed Thursday there have been 34 H1N1-related deaths in Alberta, including 10 deaths since last Friday.

The premier offered words of sympathy for the growing number of flu victims.

“It is tragic to the families that lose loved ones to influenza,” he said. “It could have been people that maybe some of their health conditions were predisposed to something else. I don’t know, but obviously Canadians are concerned.”

Stelmach said the province made a decision to allow all Albertans to get H1N1 vaccinations when they were first offered in mid-October, which resulted in people waiting up to six hours for their shots.

But after several days the province halted all vaccinations as they ran short of vaccine.

The flu shots resumed a couple of days later with new restrictions, allowing only pregnant women and young children at first and then others considered to be in high-risk categories.

“It would be interesting to see what the poll would be after this last week when the vaccination was done rather smoothly I believe,” said the premier.

But Stelmach said his discussion with Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this week has given him assurance that steps are being taken to hasten the delivery of additional vaccine to the provinces.

“The prime minister said he’s going to have somebody on the ground at the manufacturer ensuring that there’s a smooth supply of the vaccine and they will share it with all the provinces and all Canadians,” said Stelmach.

The Harris-Decima poll of 1,000 people is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted Nov. 5 through Nov. 8.

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