CALGARY - While thousands of people stood in the cold for hours last week to be inoculated against the H1N1 virus, the Calgary Flames arranged for their players to receive the flu shots away from the crowds.
A spokesman for the hockey club said "most" of the team received the vaccine on Friday, a day before tight supplies spurred the province to restrict inoculations to only Albertans deemed to be at greatest risk.
The team didn't say if the players were inoculated with the same supply of vaccine Albertans are receiving, or if they'd somehow managed to make arrangements to get it elsewhere.
Alberta Health Services is looking into the matter.
A spokesman for the health board said if the Flames jumped the board's queue to get the shots it was a "mistake."
The hockey club suggests, however, that it spoke to someone with the health board beforehand.
"Last week, our team physicians worked with Alberta Health Services and assessed the risks on our team and the potential commotion and intrusion that sending the team to one of the locations would cause," said Flames spokesman Peter Hanlon in an e-mail to the Herald.
"Consequently, on Friday we invoked a process that was deemed appropriate at the time and was consistent with our physicians' and Alberta Health Services' direction."
A followup e-mail--seeking further information about where the inoculations were provided and the origin of the vaccine--was not returned. Players declined to comment.
Mark Kastner, spokesman for Alberta Health Services, said the board itself did not make any special arrangements for the Flames.
"Based on the process that was in place on Friday, that would have been a mistake and shouldn't have happened," Kastner said.
The news comes as the province prepares to unveil its plans today to reopen inoculation clinics in the province. When the clinics start up again later this week, they will focus on Albertans at greatest risk.
When the inoculation process began last week, Premier Ed Stelmach encouraged all Albertans to get the flu shot.
"Most of our players received the vaccine prior to the currently discussed priority program and consistent with the then-stated Alberta Health Services policy," Hanlon wrote.
He said the team also consulted the National Hockey League.
League spokesman Frank Brown said Monday that it recommended flu shots, but did not mandate them.
"Clearly, it's a legitimate health concern," he said.
Last week, Dr. Judy Mac-Donald, deputy medical officer of health in Calgary, said she would be upset if a prominent citizen jumped the H1N1 vaccination lineups.
The Calgary Stampeders have not made special arrangements for their football players, said Pat Clayton, team director of medical services.
"We're on a waiting list through our physicians'offices to eventually get the vaccine when it's available to the general population," he said.