Canada's Aboriginal Peoples need to be guaranteed access to drugs to treat the H1N1 virus in the face of a looming vaccine shortage, the Assembly of First Nations said Friday.
The infection rate among aboriginal Canadians is higher than in the general population, the organization said. With an apparent shortage of drugs to deal with the so-called swine flu, aboriginal men and women need to have access to the serum, according to the AFN's health representative.
"We are seeing an alarming trend of a greater severity of disease among First Nations, especially in remote communities, largely because of pre-existing health conditions and poor living conditions," said Chief Angus Toulouse.
"Canada is in the process of prioritizing high-risk groups to receive the vaccine, and we strongly believe that a number of our communities should be prioritized," he said.
Recently, Canada's chief public health officer, David Butler-Jones, noted that this country is one of the few that actually can get enough H1N1 vaccine to meet the needs of its own population.
In the past, however, health watchers have expressed concerned that sufficient drug supplies will only be available in the later fall, calling into question which groups will get the existing vaccine.
Recent statistics from Manitoba peg the infection level among First Nations there at more than 20 times the rate among the overall population, 135 per 100,000 people versus 6.1 cases per 100,000 for the province, the AFN said. Manitoba has faced particularly troublesome outbreaks of swine flu in remote aboriginal communities in the past couple months.
The World Health Organization now predicts that a vaccine for the virus will not be ready for general use before November instead of an earlier fall forecast. Worse still, the United Nations agency has said there will likely not be enough of the serum to go around.
Since the outbreak of the swine flu pandemic earlier this year, Canada has seen 10,156 swine flu cases nationally, with 45 deaths.