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H1N1 vaccines focus of health inquiry
Published Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:30PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:39PM MST
How the H1N1 vaccine was doled out and who got it three years ago was front and center at the public inquiry into Alberta’s health care system in Calgary on Thursday.
Several nurses who staffed the clinics, which were swamped by Albertans eager to get the swine flu vaccine, took the stand on Thursday morning.
The shots were abruptly stopped shortly after they began because of demand exceeding the supply of the vaccine.
The province then shut down all the clinics while they worked out a priority list of who should receive the vaccine.
However, during testimony on Thursday, it was reveal that some people were still getting the vaccine after the clinics were shuttered.
But the nurses also said there was a surplus amount of vaccine and that it was going to expire if it wasn’t used.
Several public health nurses said that the vaccine needed to be used, even though it would have meant breaking the rules.
The inquiry also heard allegations that one nurse took the vaccine home to administer to her daughter and her friends.
Another situation, which was confirmed, was that on the day after the clinics were ordered shut down, a nurse went to the clinic on her day off and administered the H1N1 vaccine to another 15 patients because she felt the vaccine needed to be used.
A lawyer asked her if she felt bad about the people who’ve been waiting in line for the vaccine while those 15 were simply let in.
Susan Smith, a public health nurse with the Alberta Health Services, says they were in a unique situation. “We were in a crisis. We were in an emergency situation and we had a very limited resource that we had that we did not want to waste.”
Smith says that she felt that administering the vaccine was more important than anything.
She also said that it concerned her a lot that doses of the vaccine that could be used were going to waste.
All of the testimony on Thursday concerns the H1N1 vaccine, as it did when evidence of the Flames’ flu clinic came up but it highlights a different situation – one of desperation and concern for people not getting the vaccine because it would have to be thrown away if it wasn’t used.
The inquiry into Alberta’s public health system was ordered last February and could last several weeks.