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Will Olympics need swine flu vaccinations?

The United States is worried about the impact of swine flu on the 2010 Winter Olympics here in British Columbia.

A Reuters report in the Washington Post set out the problem on Wednesday evening:

Organizers of next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver are hoping to get thousands of volunteers and staff vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, a medical official said on Wednesday.

Organizers were already stockpiling antivirals and vaccine for next year's expected seasonal flu in Canada and are now talking with Canadian and international health authorities about how to respond to the global swine flu pandemic.

"We'll be doing a campaign trying to encourage all of our volunteers as well as our staff ... to get as many as possible vaccinated," said Dr. Jack Taunton, chief medical officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC).

The report points out the numbers of people who could be involved:

They will also involve 25,000 volunteers and 5,000 VANOC staff. Vaccinations cannot be mandated in Canada, so Taunton said that, based on past medical experience, it is unlikely all of the volunteers and staff would agree to do it.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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