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Kendall: Vaccine supply will drop next week

Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, today predicted 800,000 doses of H1N1 flu vaccines will be given by the end of the week. But next week will see a sharp drop in vaccine supply to just 63,500 doses.

Speaking at a press conference in Victoria, Kendall said B.C. is now in the second week of "the biggest vaccination in its history." He admitted to "a few bumps and some confusion" in the early days of the campaign, and said demand had been exacerbated by the flu deaths of two teenagers in Ontario.

"We are doing our best to get the most vulnerable vaccinated first," Kendall said.

Kendall explained that 800,000 immunized British Columbians represent 20 percent of the population. Vaccinating so many in two weeks was an achievement, he suggested, when it usually take three to four months to vaccinate 1.1 million persons against seasonal flu.

"We have a clear, overarching plan in place," Kendall said, but authorities are meeting daily "to adapt our plan to changing conditions." The regional health authorities, he said, determine the best way to reach their people to deliver the vaccine. "So rollouts may vary" in different parts of the province.

The decline in shipments to 63,500 doses next week, Kendall said, "will constrain clinics." But near the end of the week he promised another 25,000 doses of unadjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women.

Asked by The Tyee about the World Health Organization's assurance that any kind of vaccine would be safe for pregnant women, Kendall said the unadjuvanted vaccine would offer them a choice. Many pregnant women, he said, have already taken the regular vaccine.

In response to other reporters' questions, Kendall said the vaccination of 300 Olympic torchbearers "made sense" since they would be going into small towns and First Nations communities and might bring H1N1 with them. First Nations reserves, he added, have already received 70,000 doses and uptake has been high.

He said the second wave of the outbreak has not yet peaked, and could go on until Christmas. A third wave could come in the new year.

Asked by a reporter about the rumoured H1N1 death of a young British Columbian in the past week, Kendall said he had heard the rumour but had no confirmation. "We can expect more deaths," he said.

Shortly after the news conference, CBC and other media reported the death of a young Yukon girl in a B.C. pediatric intensive care unit on Sunday.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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