Businesses are working to keep pace with the fast-changing developments surrounding the H1N1 virus by crafting or fine-tuning their pandemic preparedness plans. Yet one tool that more than likely won’t be in their arsenal will be the ability to distribute the vaccine independently through on-site workplace clinics.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it’s up to provincial and territorial public health officials to determine how the vaccine will be distributed.
Michael Geiger-Wolf, director, business continuity for Ceridian Canada, whose company provides employee assistance programs and support to human resources departments, said they’ve been advised by the government that the vaccine won’t be made available through sponsored clinics by employers or third-party agencies.
In Ontario, workplaces have offered the seasonal flu shot for the last number of years, but with the H1N1 vaccine, it’s a different approach, said David Jensen, spokesman for the province’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
“What would happen with the seasonal flu program is the workplaces would be able to order the seasonal flu vaccine directly from the manufacturer. They’re not able to do that with H1N1.
It’s going from the federal government and then on through the provinces,” Jensen said.
There are specific requirements for storing, reconstituting and administering the vaccine, as well as a lot of data collection and adverse event reporting involved, he added.
While further discussions with local health units may yield some other strategy of a way to offer the vaccine in workplaces, Jensen said as of now it’s “doubtful.”
At a recent pandemic planning seminar held in Toronto organized by the International Centre for Infectious Diseases and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, it was suggested employers consider giving workers a few hours off to get vaccinated, much like time allotted to vote in an election.
“I think most employers recognize that this is not something that comes along every day,” said Ken Kobly, president and CEO of Alberta Chambers of Commerce. “I don’t think they’d run into too much flak from their employer to stand in line and get a shot.”