Olympic torch team priority for swine flu shots

Public health officials say it was vital to give members of the Olympic torch team inoculations for swine flu, despite the short supply of vaccine for people in other high-risk groups.

Public health officials say it was vital to give members of the Olympic torch team inoculations for swine flu, despite the short supply of vaccine for people in other high-risk groups.

About 300 people on the team, including many torchbearers and support volunteers, were immunized in recent days.

"The last thing we want to do is basically be spreading virus across the country," said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Vancouver Island's chief medical health officer.

Stanwick decided to give the torch team the H1N1 vaccine because torchbearers will take the flame to remote First Nations communities as part of a cross-Canada relay before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games in February.

Olympic organizers were quick to defend the small-scale inoculation program.

"It's not about going to the head of the line," said Jim Richards, VANOC's director of torch relays. "It was what was really considered socially responsible of us, to have that vaccination."

The community of Atlin, near the Yukon border, will be one of the first stops for the torch.

Fear of H1N1 has already meant changing a traditional potluck into one featuring paper plates and plastic cutlery. But the community was able to acquire about one-quarter of the vaccine it needed.

"It wouldn't matter what group was getting it first," said Donna Hall, a nursing supervisor in Atlin. "There will be others who aren't getting it who are resentful of that."

Demand exceeds supply across country

British Columbia learned Thursday it will receive 500,000 fewer doses than it expected to have on hand by Nov. 6.

"We're getting it in smaller amounts than we thought, which means we can put it into fewer arms than we would originally like to do," provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall told CBC News.

B.C. was supposed to receive 1,350,000 doses by the end of next week, but the federal government has now cut that total shipment to 850,000, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Kendall said the manufacturer has been unable to meet production targets, and all provinces will be receiving considerably less vaccine in coming weeks than was announced earlier this week.

That will be unwelcome news for tens of thousands of British Columbians who are in priority groups for vaccination and had been counting on earlier announcements that much larger amounts of vaccine would be available starting Nov. 2.