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article imageB.C. health chief says he'd like to vaccinate all school kids Special

By Salim Jiwa     Nov 12, 2009 in Health
B.C.'s health chief, Perry Kendall, says a shortage of vaccine poses "very difficult decisions" on who to vaccinate first. With a revelation that 200 of 600 admitted to hospitals in B.C. were under 19 years, he's thinking of vaccinating all school kids.
VANCOUVER – B.C. health chief Dr. Perry Kendall says his department is looking for ways to vaccinate school kids on a priority basis for Swine Flu following the hospitalization of some 200 children and youths under 19 – a full one-third of all hospital admissions in B.C.
“Yes we are looking at prioritizing children and youth,” he said.
But he says the vaccine shortage poses a quandary for health officials who “have to make very difficult decisions” on who to prioritize for vaccinations.
Kendall outlined his dilemma in an emailed response to a question about why all school-aged children are not being vaccinated despite the hospitalization rates that show 33 per cent of all Swine Flu hospital patients have been infants under 2 (6 per cent) and those aged between 2 and 19 (27 per cent.)
A ten-year-old was among eight patients who died in B.C. from Swine Flu complications.
“With limited supplies of vaccines we are having to make very difficult decisions between protecting children, protecting older people with low risk of illness but high risk of complications if ill,health care workers and first responders,” said Kendall.
“Weighing the science and societal values has resulted in differing priorities in different jurisdictions,” he said.
“Overall, healthy children and youth 5-19 have low hospitalization rates. However children and youth with underlying health conditions have higher rates so we have prioritized them in the initial wave. The number of healthy children that we would need to vaccinate to prevent an adverse event is high," he said.
“There are about 40,000 children in each grade in B.C.,” he added. “That’s nearly 600,000 thousand kids.”
Kendall said 250,000 doses of vaccine are expected next week.
“We are expecting 250,000 doses of vaccines next week and an uncertain amount the week after, we have a large contingent of seniors in B.C.,” he said.
“That is about 14% of our population. At least 33% have an underlying chronic condition that puts them at elevated risk for complications, even though their risk of H1N1 is low,” the health chief said about the struggle to balance out the need to vaccinate a large number of people and the supply of vaccine that is available.
“We also have at least two score of first responders who, as yet have not been prioritized for vaccination and several score health care workers in a similar position,” he said.
More about Swine flu, Vaccine shortage, Hospitalized kids
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