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Minister outraged

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews vowed Thursday to investigatewhether celebrity athletes jumped the queue for the swine flu shotwhile other groups are being forced to wait as the province’s supplydwindles.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews vowed Thursday to investigate whether celebrity athletes jumped the queue for the swine flu shot while other groups are being forced to wait as the province’s supply dwindles.

She said she shares the outrage sparked by reports that professional hockey and basketball players in Toronto got the shot even though the province doesn’t have enough yet to vaccinate school-age children.

“I don’t care who you are, how rich you are, how famous you are,” she said.

“If you’re not in the priority group, get out of the line and let the people who are in the priority groups get their vaccination.”

Ontario is still expected to run out of the regular H1N1 vaccine at the end of the week due to Ottawa’s dramatic supply slowdown, she said. The province has enough vaccine to immunize 2.2 million people, which is intended only for the estimated 3.4 million Ontarians who fall under the province’s high-priority groups, she said.

The government wants to add school-age children as a priority group, but it doesn’t have enough vaccine to expand that list, Matthews said.

She said she doesn’t yet know how athletes with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors got the shot, or whether it was obtained through Medcan, a private clinic that received 3,000 doses of the vaccine.

“All of our professional health-care providers — the ones who are administering the vaccine — are working under exactly the same rules,” Matthews said. “It doesn’t matter if it was through a private clinic or through a doctor’s office or through one of the public health unit clinics. The priority groups remain the same.”

Some players and staff from both the NHL’s Leafs and the NBA’s Raptors received the vaccine, but spokesmen for the team said there was no preferential treatment.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the teams, wouldn’t say how many players got the shot, and whether there were underlying health complications.

 
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