TORONTO – Canadian officials are finalizing the number of doses of swine flu vaccine they expect will be enough to get the country through the upcoming flu season, ahead of a July 31 deadline for ordering the country’s supply.
There will be a sufficient amount of vaccine for all those who want or need it, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said Monday, though she cautioned there may be a shortfall at first.
The initial amounts of vaccine will become available about mid-November, Dr. Arlene King said as public health officials from across Ontario met in Toronto to discuss pandemic preparations.
“It is important that we plan for the possibility that we’re not going to have the amount that we need right from the outset,” King said.
“So some of the considerations are looking at the epidemiology, our remote and isolated communities, health-care workers, those with pre-existing chronic diseases and those under the age of 50.”
Lists of groups of people given priority for receiving the vaccine will be finalized in the fall, King said.
Higher risk groups for the pandemic H1N1 virus include infants, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and the morbidly obese, she said.
Canada has a contract with GlaxoSmithKline, which owns a flu vaccine plant in Ste-Foy, Que., to produce the necessary quantities. That plant is capable of producing 3.5 to four million doses per week, King said.
Health officials are determining the number of vaccines they will need to order so that everyone who needs it or wants it can be immunized, King said. That number was not yet available, but she said it will not be 100 per cent of the population.
People over the age of 50 are less at risk and those who have already had this H1N1 virus will have immunity, King said.
Public health officials should plan for a worse than usual flu season, but beyond that it’s difficult to know how the H1N1 virus and three strains of seasonal flu will behave, she said.
“Influenza season is always full of surprises,” King said.
But it is likely that during the fall remote and isolated communities, universities and military bases will see swine flu outbreaks, she told the meeting of public health officials.