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Long Lines Again At Toronto Flu Clinics

As two Toronto H1N1 flu shot clinics continue to provide immunizations on another day of high demand, a slowdown in the delivery of the vaccine is expected next week.

A queue started forming outside the Metro Hall vaccination centre before 6am Friday, four hours before the scheduled opening. A long line, but smaller than those at other Toronto clinics, also formed early at a second clinic at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

“I’m seven months pregnant and we did a lot of research about the vaccine and decided it was important that we get it,” Sharon Salter said at Metro Hall.

The immunization centres this week are only intended for people in high-risk groups, including pregnant women; children 6 months to 5 years; people under 65 with chronic conditions; people who live with infants under 6 months old and immunocompromised people; and healthcare workers.

Overwhelming turnouts at two Toronto clinics Thursday forced officials to close the lines of about 1,000 people each, not long after the doors were opened.

And provincial health officials announced Friday that initial plans to begin vaccinating non-priority groups starting Monday have been set back due to a shortage of the flu shot.

Instead clinics will continue to serve only priority groups through next week.

The demand for pandemic flu shots has caught health units and the federal government off-guard. On Thursday the Public Health Agency of Canada warned that deliveries of the vaccine to the provinces and territories will slow next week.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones said the government’s request for adjuvant-free immunizations for pregnant women will slow output from vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline.

By the end of this week, six million doses will have been shipped out across the country – that’s almost enough to cover everyone in high-risk groups, Butler-Jones said.

“The response in the first week has been quite overwhelming and we obviously appreciate people’s patience,” he explained.

“In the next couple of weeks if people who are at low risk of severe disease could just wait a couple of weeks, the lines might be better and it will mean it (the vaccine) can be focused on those at greater risk.”

Ottawa planned on getting three million doses of vaccine per week from GSK, but this bottleneck will reduce that number to fewer than two million. Shipments are expected to return to normal when vaccine production returns to regular levels in a couple of weeks.

With files from the Canadian Press

Click here for information on H1N1 vaccination clinics across the GTA.

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