Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said it is "entirely unacceptable" that some team members and staff of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors received H1N1 shots at a time when the province faces a shortage of the vaccine.
Maple Leaf and Sports Entertainment, which owns both teams, said in a statement Wednesday that "certain players and staff" on the teams had received the shot, and denied its staff and players jumped the vaccination line.
Matthews said Thursday she is looking closely into why players and staff for the Raptors and the Leafs got the shots.
"I want you to know that this is entirely, entirely unacceptable," she said at Queen's Park on Thursday. "We are relying on our professionals to respect the priority list."
Issues with the manufacturer have led to a shortage of the vaccine, so Ontario has decreed only priority groups — those who are at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus than the general public — are currently eligible to receive shots.
- Pregnant women.
- Children from six months to five years of age.
- People who live with children under six months old.
- People under 65 with underlying medical conditions.
- Immune-compromised people and those caring for them.
- People living in remote and isolated communities.
In the 10 days since the vaccine was first doled out, many people have had to contend with hours-long lineups.
"Similar to other physician offices, any vaccine supplies received were obtained through normal distribution and no preferential treatment was requested nor received," MLSE said in a statement.
MLSE would not say who got the shots and how, saying that information is "considered private and confidential."
It is also unclear if any of those vaccinated were members of the priority groups, or if they received the shots while travelling in the United States.
Matthews has conceded that hundreds, perhaps thousands of doses of the H1N1 shots had been shipped to private clinics in the province — doses that now cannot be tracked.
The MLSE controversy comes after a Alberta Health Services staff member was fired for approving vaccinations for some Calgary Flames players and their families last week at a time that many people in priority groups endured long lineups.
On Saturday, one day after the Flames were vaccinated, the province abruptly suspended its clinics because of a vaccine shortage.