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One quarter of Canadians immunized for H1N1: Top doc

November 16, 2009

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THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG – The country's chief public health officer says almost one-quarter of Canadians have been immunized against swine flu.

Dr. David Butler-Jones says Canada is leading the world when it comes to the percentage of the population vaccinated.

He says that's why Canada has had so few deaths and serious cases of the virus so far.

Butler-Jones also says that despite initial shortages, vaccine shipments are now flowing well.

He says there will be several million doses available this week and plans are to ship another three million doses next week.

Butler-Jones says he expects that means more people will be eligible to get the shot soon.

Late Thursday night Health Canada approved the version of the shot recommended for pregnant women. Canada has ordered 1.8 million doses of this additive-free – or unadjuvanted – version from GlaxoSmithKline, after ordering a stop-gap supply of adjuvant-free vaccine from Australia.

Healthy children and adults between the ages 10 and 64 may also get this adjuvant-free version if desired.

"Using the available unadjuvanted vaccine will allow more Canadians to be immunized sooner," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones said at a news conference Friday. "This vaccine has been shown to be very effective at offering protection in those with healthy immune systems."

Ontario's list of priority groups for H1N1 vaccine has now been expanded to include children 13 years and under and adults 65-plus who have chronic health conditions.

Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, made a plea Friday to parents of children 13 and younger to get their children immunized because they are "highly susceptible to the virus." People under the age of 20 have accounted for almost half of all hospitalized cases of H1N1 in the province.

"Our rates of influenza-like illness right now are higher ... than we have seen in any flu season on which we have been doing any monitoring," said King. "And the highest burden of illness is in the young."

Currently 135 of 1,000 patient visits to doctors are for flu-like illness, compared to an average 70 to 75 of 1,000 visits going back to the year 2000 during flu season. The vast majority of lab-confirmed cases of flu have been the H1N1 strain.

With files from Theresa Boyle.

More on our H1N1 page.

thestar.com

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