N.L. changes flu shot rules after queue jumping
'Let our children come first,' health minister pleads
Hundreds of people were again lining up at swine flu vaccination clinics in Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday, amid word health officials have tightened the rules on who can get the shot, and predictions the supply will soon run out.
The province ditched its original plan to begin vaccinations for the general public starting Monday, Nov. 2, and made the shots available Friday for people who are at a high risk of complications from influenza.
However, Health Minister Jerome Kennedy said Friday evening that he has been forced to step in and change the rules involving high-risk candidates, after hearing many healthy adults were slipping to the front of the line to get the shot.
Earlier in the week, Eastern Health, the province's largest health authority, admitted that some of its workers who were getting the vaccination as a priority were also bringing family members in to be vaccinated.
"I appealed to people on the honour system," Kennedy told CBC News. "All of the stories today [Friday] that came back to me, unfortunately, indicated that that may not have been the case. We had young children out in the cold for hours."
Kennedy said it was disappointing that otherwise healthy adults would make children wait for the vaccine. He appealed to people to be less selfish.
"Let our children come first. Let's deal with our children and our adults with high-risk conditions. I know people are concerned. We're trying to do the best we can, but we have a very limited supply of this vaccine and we have to try to get it out to the children of our province."
Kennedy said starting Saturday, health officials who are giving the shots will limit the H1N1 vaccine to:
- Children between the ages of six months and five years old.
- People between the ages of five and 24 who have chronic conditions.
- Pregnant women who are in the second half of their pregnancy.
"Instructions will be given to all of the regional health authorities that parents who come there tomorrow [Saturday] with their children will not be provided with the vaccine, and that healthy people will be asked to wait [until] later on."
Emergency rooms in the province and doctors' clinics have been overrun with people showing up with flu-like symptoms. Health officials suspect many of those people had H1N1.
Kennedy said there has been such a demand for the swine flu shot that health officials expected to run out of the vaccine sometime Saturday. However, by mid-afternoon Saturday, Kennedy said the province still had a supply of vaccine remaining and immunization clinics would operate on Sunday.
A new batch of medicine won't arrive in the province until Wednesday. Kennedy said the federal government has said that it will be a smaller shipment than originally anticipated.
Health officials said that once the current supply is depleted this weekend, 82,000 doses of the vaccine will have been given to people, vaccinating about 17 per cent of the province's half million residents.