H1N1 vaccine was pre-positioned in all provinces and territories prior to its approval by Health Canada. Despite this fact, an error in shipping and handling has resulted in a delay that has “Montreal health department officials . . . scrambling to distribute 155,000 doses that were delivered Friday and Sunday night.” (“H1N1 vaccinations late in Montreal”)
Because of this delay, instead of launching clinics and rolling out vaccines like the rest of the province – and indeed, other major cities in Canada – Montreal health officials devoted Monday to shipping and receiving of the H1N1 vaccine. As of Tuesday night, not all the doses had yet been distributed, but health agency spokesperson Chantal Huot downplayed the delay saying. “This is a minor adjustment of 24 hours, and I don’t think it will change anything.” (“Montreal must play catch-up”)
Hospitals Late to Begin Vaccinating Staff
Montreal hospitals still did not have vaccine as of Tuesday. Late delivery will result in late starts to H1N1 immunization for health care workers and patients in longterm care. Affected hospitals are the CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal) and MUHC (McGill University Health Centre – including the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Montreal General and the Royal Victoria Hospital.) While the CHUM expects to begin inoculating chronic care patients this week, staff vaccines at both the CHUM and MUHC will not begin until November 2nd. (“Montreal must play catch-up”) The Jewish General is also among health centers late to receive vaccine. (“Slow start to H1N1 vaccination in Quebec”)
Lack of Accurate Information About Shots Leads to Confusion
Besides late vaccine delivery, Montreal area residents are also subject to a lack of accurate, up to date information about where and when they can get their H1N1 shots. Announcements of mass vaccination sites to be opened at the Olympic Stadium and the Palais des Congrès had some people showing up to these centers before the clinics were even set up. Others are calling local health centers with questions about pre-registration for the vaccine, when no such registration is required.
The Quebec government web site set up to inform the public had not a single clinic listed for the Montreal area as of early Monday morning, and although it now displays clinic locations and hours for the region along with the dates when certain populations can expect to be vaccinated, the English version has not yet been launched, leaving the 336,785 residents of the province who understand only English (Statistics Canada) in the dark. In response to criticisms of this omission, the health ministry has now promised English will be available on the web site as of Wednesday. (“Slow start to H1N1 vaccination in Quebec”)
Priority Groups to Receive Vaccine Beginning November
The public vaccination schedule in Montreal and the surrounding area was provided to the CBC and published in an article whose latest update is listed as late Friday evening. (“Montreal will open special flu shot centres”) The article states that “[h]ealth-care workers and people who are in hospital with serious illnesses will be the first to get the vaccine.” There is, however, a delay of almost a month before other adults aged 18-65 who suffer from a chronic illness can expect to receive their H1N1 shots in Montreal. These will be offered beginning November 23rd.
In the meantime priority is being given to parents of children under six months of age, who themselves cannot be vaccinated, and to the family members of people with immunodeficiency disorders. These people can roll up their sleeves beginning November 6th. Pregnant women and children up to five years old, as well as their parents, can line up beginning November 9th in Montreal. Children between ages 5-18 are the next priority group to receive their shots, beginning November 16th.
The government is putting particular emphasis on vaccinating those with chronic heart or lung conditions, including children with asthma, and individuals with diabetes. Also on the list of the most vulnerable to influenza are cancer and transplant patients, and those receiving dialysis.
If you or a loved one fall into this category, please do not wait to go for your swine flu shot even if you are well controlled by medication and lifestyle choices and generally feel well. If in any doubt, contact your health care provider or call 811 to speak to a CLSC nurse who can advise you.
Healthy Adults & Older Children to Be Vaccinated in December
Health adults and children over age five are not expected to receive vaccines in Montreal until December 7th, at this point. This may, of course, change as the immunization programs get underway. Watch for updates in the news, and on the health ministry’s web sites at: http://www.pandemiequebec.gouv.qc.ca and http://vaccination.msss.gouv.qc.ca/. (Sites automatically load in French, but look for the “English” link in the top right of your screen. When an English version is available, you will be able to load it.)
Getting an H1N1 Vaccine in Montreal and the Rest of Quebec
The H1N1 vaccine is optional in Quebec and is available to all residents free of charge. No pre-registration is required, and the vaccine will not generally be available in your doctor’s office due to requirements for refrigerated storage.
Just go to a mass vaccination clinic on the appropriate day and time. Quebec photo ID is required to be inoculated, so bring your Medicare card along. Although priorities have been set, the Montreal Health Agency says no one will be turned away if they arrive to be vaccinated too early. (“Most vulnerable first in line for H1N1 vaccinations”)
Montreal residents who need information about H1N1 influenza can consult http://www.santemontreal.qc.ca/En/index.html for information about health care in Montreal, including contact information for clinics and hospitals, and links to H1N1 help.
Statistics Canada reports the Greater Montreal area has a population of 3,868,831 – the largest in the province of Quebec and the second largest metropolitan area in Canada. While not all of the residents of the area are affected by the vaccine delays, a group of 1,620,693 Montreal city dwellers plus residents of demerged municipalities to the west of the mega-city will see later distribution dates.
“2006 community profiles – Quebec (province)” Statistics Canada
“Greater Montreal” Wikipedia
“H1N1 vaccinations late in Montreal” Charlie Fidelman (The Gazette)
“Montreal must play catch-up” Charlie Fidelman (The Gazette)
“Most vulnerable first in line for H1N1 vaccinations” The Gazette
“Répertoire des centres de vaccination grippe pandémique A(H1N1)” Santé et services sociaux Québec
“Slow start to H1N1 vaccination in Quebec” CBC News