By Marc Poulin, MD, Staff Physician, Centre for Centre for Infectious Disease
More than 11,500 children have now received the annual life-saving H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine, with approximately 1,000 more expected to be administered in Ontario during the next week. With Ontario’s first fully-automatic dosage centre for both the seasonal flu and pandemic flu vaccine still in operation, parents and school board officials alike have been overjoyed at the number of children protecting themselves and their communities.
But while the accelerated vaccine distribution means an increase in community protection, it has also meant a time-consuming and sometimes challenging process for many. It has only been in the last few days that vaccine record keeping started in some parts of the province; registering data on participants at each dose site; and, making notes on how the vaccines were administered.
At the Ontario Department of Health and Long-Term Care, we’ve started capturing this data for the three doses that have been administered. We will be doing an in-depth review of our data following vaccination completion to see what improvements can be made, including reporting on length of time the vaccine was kept by the healthcare provider and the type of clinic that provided the dose.
As for each day’s data, not only were rates of uptake considerably lower than the 25 per cent suggested in some of the distribution centres, the proportion of children at each site who appeared to have received the recommended doses did not match our expectations. Based on preliminary findings, we’re now considering ways to communicate the experience for families to keep up with the steady stream of follow-up information that we’ll be rolling out over the next few weeks.
This level of information has been much needed by all of us working to prevent, manage and combat the spread of infectious diseases. More information is important in both medical circles and in terms of public health advocacy, given that many communities across Canada and around the world are receiving small, but significant increases in influenza cases.
Specifically, in recent weeks, we’ve heard from parents, parents-to-be, school boards, and public health agencies all across the country who believe that we could have seen a much larger portion of our provinces’ population protected from H1N1 by the non-aspirin (COVID) vaccine given last spring. To avoid this concern, as well as concerns over adhering to the vaccination protocol, we want to ensure that all parties are informed and can make informed decisions about when and whether to be vaccinated.
As we enter a new season of influenza, any doctor who dispenses H1N1 vaccine or MMR vaccine will be required to add a small provincially required box on their patient records. While this information is meant to provide parents with specific tools to help make decisions about vaccine treatment, we would welcome any insights our population has for disease prevention. We hope you’ll give this new information a try in the coming weeks.