Ottawa expands H1N1 vaccine program as clinics prepare to reopen

By Mark Brownlee

Two new high-priority groups will be able to get the H1N1 vaccine when the City of Ottawa reopens clinics Wednesday, say city public health officials. Adults over 65 who have underlying medical conditions will be now included as well as children between the ages of 6 and 13.

Clinics in Ottawa shut down last Thursday after the city ran out of the vaccine. The Ontario government received another 470,000 doses Monday, and is now distributing them to local vaccination clinics.

“The province has informed Ottawa Public Health that the delivery of the first portion of the 100,000 doses of the vaccine that we requested is imminent,” said Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, in a press release issued Monday.

Those doses will be distributed at the vaccination clinics set up at local arenas and community centres, as well as at hospitals and roughly 100 doctor’s offices throughout the city. The Ontario government said another 272,500 doses could be available before the week is over.

At the Tom Brown arena Tuesday, one of the many special vaccination clinics set up by the city, most of the infrastructure was still in place for Wednesday’s reopening. Confused residents had already begun to line up outside the arena early Tuesday expecting to receive a vaccination. Orange wooden barricades remained in the parking lot, as did white tents marked with the City of Ottawa’s logo.

A large orange highway sign advertised that the clinics would be reopening November 18, while a sign on the door read “Vaccination Clinic Temporarily Closed.”

Federal health officials are stepping up their efforts to encourage people to get vaccinated at places like the Tom Brown arena after reporting a surge in the number of deaths from the virus.

Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday 37 deaths were reported between November 12 and 17, the most during a five-day span since the vaccination process began. That brings the total number of deaths from H1N1 in Canada to 198.

Another H1N1 death was confirmed in Ottawa last Friday, bringing the city’s total deaths to five.

“We’re not over the hump yet,” said Butler-Jones. “Certainly in parts of the country they’re seeing a leveling off, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Butler-Jones said he expects the number of deaths from H1N1 to continue going up until an anticipated peak in mid-December.

To see Hartwell’s photo gallery of the set up of the Tom Brown H1N1 clinic, click here.

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