Swine flu vaccine coming, the question is, when?

  • Oct. 26, 2009 6:00 a.m.

Haida Gwaii is one of the first places in the north which will be receiving the swine flu vaccine, but as of Monday (Oct. 26), Northern Health had no information about when, where or how islanders could get the vaccine. Northern Health’s chief medical health officer Dr. David Bowering said Haida Gwaii is considered a remote community, with significant First Nations population, and this puts us at the top of the list for vaccine distribution. But Northern Health staff are facing significant challenges organizing vaccination clinics throughout the vast and sparsely populated region, he admitted. “We are definitely working as hard as we can to get the clinics open,” Dr. Bowering said Monday afternoon. “This is a very complex situation, with information changing.” While high-risk residents of southern BC started receiving the vaccine Monday, the north is lagging behind because of the huge distances between communities, he said. “We’re the little twigs and branches on the this vaccine distribution tree,” he said. Northern Health has always expected that vaccine distribution would start in early November and that is still the target, he said. The first people to receive the vaccine will be pregnant women past the 20th week of pregnancy, adults under 65 with chronic health conditions, and residents of remote and First Nations communities. “Everyone who wants or needs this immunization will be able to get it over the next three weeks or month,” he said. The vaccine is free and Dr. Bowering said he urges everyone to get it. Health Canada has ordered enough vaccine for 70 percent of the population and he does not expect that there will be any shortage. Islanders who want the vaccine should check the Northern Health web page (www.northernhealth.ca), where info about clinics here will be posted as soon as they have been set up, Dr. Bowering said. Meanwhile, one Masset resident said it didn’t seem right that people in Vancouver are receiving the vaccine while islanders are still waiting for information about how they can get it. “Vancouver is not an isolated First Nations community,” said George Picken. “Why isn’t that vaccine flown up here as soon as they get it? It just doesn’t seem to make sense.” Mr. Picken said he started looking for information mostly out of concern for his two-year-old godson and his four-year-old brother, and was surprised at how little he was able to find. It’s inconsistent for the government to keep saying that remote communities are top priority, Mr. Picken said, and then for Vancouver to get the vaccine before anywhere else. “I think it’s been poorly done,” he said. “When you phone and ask for information, people seem to be not sure.”