Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer attempted to outline the province’s approach to H1N1 vaccinations once and for all in Halifax yesterday, saying he understands the confusion and frustration expressed by many people over the past few days.
Dr. Robert Strang told reporters a constantly changing flow of information about H1N1 and an unexpected vaccine shortage forced his team to make some tough decisions last week – which included restricting the shot to high-risk groups.
“I don’t sleep very well right now, because I understand there are people out there who need vaccine and aren’t getting it,” he said. “But we need to allow those who need the vaccine most to get it.”
There has been harsh criticism of the current policy because it doesn’t permit most people with chronic illnesses to get vaccinated. Strang said the 160,000 doses allotted to the province wouldn’t even come close to covering everyone under the age of 65 with a chronic health problem.
It’s estimated that 472,000 Nova Scotians fall into that category, and health officials are currently working on a way to break the huge group up into various risk levels.
For now, Strang explained, vaccinations must go to the groups that have exhibited the most severe reactions to H1N1 and who often end up in intensive care units, including very young children, First Nations communities, and pregnant women.
“As vaccine becomes available, we’ll add more and more groups based on their level of risk,” Strang said, but he would not indicate when that would happen.
Strang also warned that H1N1 has just begun to ramp up in Nova Scotia, and the number of cases is likely to increase in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to see more people in the hospital, and we will probably see some people die,” he said. “That’s the reality of this disease.”