In Thursday's Globe and Mail, there was a brief recap of the recent H1N1 mass immunization debacle that I first posted on earlier this week.
Canadian health officials are now admitting that the program was not properly organized with vaccination rates of less than 33% in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. I found the Alberta rate quite interesting, especially in light of the fact that they were only of the only provinces to open the doors of their vaccination clinics to all members of the public very early on in the pandemic.
Here's a quote from the article in the Globe:
"Public health officials and medical experts, taking stock of the country’s response to the pandemic, point to three reasons for the low vaccination rates: a failure to communicate the risks of the pandemic and the safety of the adjuvant; sequencing guidelines that gave priority to high-risk groups and were not followed by some provinces, confusing the public; and Ottawa’s inability to fully inform provinces of the weekly vaccine supply, which stalled planning."
In my posting, I noted two of those issues and alluded to the third, all issues could have been dealt with using common sense, unfortunately, it appears that in the case of the H1N1 pandemic, common sense was not all that common.
Apparently, millions of dollars were spent on advertising (as we all could have guessed by the rate at which we saw and heard the ads); in Ontario alone, $9.4 million was spent to promote the vaccine and yet only 38% of Ontario residents were vaccinated, tied for second lowest in Canada.
Approximately 70% of Newfoundland residents were vaccinated, the highest in Canada followed by New Brunswick at 65% and NWT at 62%. Ontario and Manitoba were tied for second lowest at 38% and Alberta vaccinated only 35% of its population. Major urban centres varied from a high of 68.7% in St John's to a low of 19 to 25% in Hamilton.
The failure of the vaccination program for the H1N1 variant does not bode well for the future. Years of planning had gone into implementation of a $2 billion program that could at best be termed a failure. The biggest problem from my perspective was that the vaccine was simply not available when people really wanted it. By the time the vaccine was widely, regularly and predictably available, people sensed that the worst of the pandemic was behind them. As well, confusion over the safety of the adjuvanted vaccine led the public to be tentative about trying out something that was foreign to them, despite the assurances of government (who most people don't trust in any case).
Just in case you thought this whole H1N1 pandemic was now a part of history, here's a couple of paragraphs from a press release posted on the World Health Organization's (WHO) website after the eighth meeting of their Emergency Committee on June 1, 2010:
"After extensive discussions and questions, the Committee expressed the unanimous view that from a global perspective while pandemic activity is continuing, the period of most intense pandemic activity appears likely to have passed for many parts of the world. Committee members stressed that it remains critical for countries to continue to maintain vigilance concerning the pandemic, including all necessary public health measures for disease control as well as influenza virus and disease surveillance...
Following the advice of the Emergency Committee, the Director-General determined that, while the period of most intense pandemic activity has passed, pandemic disease is expected to continue to occur... (my bold)
Remember, the WHO is the organization that classified H1N1 as a class 6 pandemic, the highest phase in their arsenal. There was nothing like making the world think that the end was near to get people running to their nearest vaccination clinic and line up for hours! And apparently, there's nothing like flogging a dead horse.