Just fifteen minutes after opening to the public at noon Thursday, the North York Clinic was forced to close the line due to overwhelming demand, turning away scores of people who showed up to get their H1N1 vaccinations.
Huge lineups were also reported at the East York Civic Centre, prompting officials there to open the doors at 9am instead of noon. It has also since closed for the day.
Both clinics had over 1,000 people show up by midday.
“Our priority and our intention was that we would do health care workers from 9am until 12, following that we are dealing with people who are in the high-priority groups … that includes pregnant women, children five years and under, and those with chronic illness,” Joanne Cameron of Toronto Public Health explained at the East York Civic Centre.
All 10 Toronto clinics will open to the public on Monday and officials are urging people not in the high-risk groups to wait until then.
Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliot is calling for 24-hour clinics to ensure everyone who wants a shot can get one.
“The H1N1 virus isn’t keeping nine to five hours and neither should we be,” she said.
“My question again to [Ont. Health Minister Deb Matthews] is will you commit to keeping the H1N1 vaccination clinics open 24 hours a day?”
Matthews said public health units across the province are working hard and have responded appropriately to the high demand.
Pregnant women and children between six months and a year aren’t included in the high-risk groups being asked to turn out to clinics in Peel Region. Health officials there are asking those groups to visit their family doctor for a shot.
The provincial health ministry Wednesday announced changes to the system family physicians must use to order the pandemic vaccine. Previously, they had to order the shots in 500-dose lots.
The ordering requirement and the heavy paper work that accompanies it has discouraged many Toronto family doctors from handing out the shot. Only 500 of 4,000 local physicians signed on.
The vaccine and adjuvant are in separate vials when delivered, meaning mixing the shots is a lengthy process for doctors.
“Some people think it’s money. I don’t think it’s about money,” said Dr. Doug Mark, a general practitioner and president of the grassroots Coalition of Family Physicians of Ontario.
“I think it’s come down to the process, that it’s very cumbersome and time consuming for doctors … The government is making things just too complicated and doctors, we’re just throwing up our hands in the air and saying: ‘You do it.”‘
“That’s what a lot of doctors are saying.”
The ability to order vaccine in smaller batches may change that.