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article imageOntarians wait in line for hours to receive H1N1 vaccine Special

By Ken Wightman     Oct 29, 2009 in Health
Waits of three hours or more are common as high-risk individuals seek protection from the the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic influenza presently rippling across Ontario.
Health units across Ontario are responding as quickly as they can to the increasing demand for H1N1 vaccine. The sudden increase in H1N1 flu cases and the widely reported deaths from H1N1 of a 13-year-old Toronto area teen, Evan Frustaglio, and a 10-year-old Cornwall girl, Vanetia Warner, have resulted in vaccination clinics throughout the province being inundated by people considered at high risk seeking vaccinations.
In London hundreds waited in line for up to three hours to receive the Arepanrix pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine. This vaccine has an adjuvant added to increase and broaden the immune response. If the flu strain changes, Arepanrix should still provide some protection.
Although the seasonal influenza vaccines do not contain an adjuvant, other vaccines commonly do. The adjuvant being used by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Arepanrix, has been studied in 45,000 people with no serious safety concerns reported, according to the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
Another ingredient in the H1N1 vaccine that has raised questions is thimerosal. The London vaccination consent form asks, "Are you allergic to: thimerosal - in vaccines and contact lens solution?" On their Web site the Middlesex-London Health Unit explains that thimerosal is not methyl mercury, as is found in fish and can be toxic, but is ethyl mercury which does not accumulate in the body. The Health Unit continues, "...there is no evidence that thimerosal is related to autism or any neurologic or health problems."
19.5 million doses of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine are destined for Ontario — enough to vaccinate everyone in the province. (Addition: Within days of the publication of this piece, it was clear that the important word was 'destined.' In the following days, while awaiting the arrival of the vaccine destined for the Ontario, the province had to deal with serious vaccine shortages.)
Lisa Clarke, a London healthcare worker, brought her 4-year-old Adam to the clinic in south London Thursday. Clarke works at the London Health Sciences Centre and was determined to get herself and her son vaccinated. Arriving at the clinic more than half an hour before the doors opened, Clarke still confronted a long line of people wrapping around the arena and disappearing into the park behind the facility.
Jenn Hale, of London, who provides care for a family member battling cancer, attended the clinic with her two children, Amelia, 3, and Alexander, 9 months. When asked if she had considered not getting herself and her children vaccinated Hale said, "I wouldn't want to risk it."
Inspector Richard Barrette, with the Health Unit, walked along the long line handing out clipboards, pens and eligibility forms — only those in certain high risk groups were eligible for these first H1N1 flu vaccination clinics. When one man showed Barrette his asthma inhaler, Barrette smiled and told him, "This is Canada. We take you at your word. No questions asked."
Across Ontario hospital facilities are being stretched to their limits as the much anticipated second wave of H1N1 pandemic influenza cases fills emergency rooms and forces cancellation of some surgeries.
The London Free Press reports half the patients arriving at the children's ER in London had a respiratory illness and 21 were admitted to hospital with presumed cases of H1N1 flu, according to Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, vice-president of medical affairs for London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care.
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews told the legislature that Telehealth Ontario, a free, confidential telephone service providing health advice and general health information, has experienced a five-fold increase in calls. Extra staff is now in place to handle the greater-than-expected number of inquiries concerning respiratory illness.
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