Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 13, 2014

Local flu clinics close after vaccine runs out

Any Whitehorse residents planning to get the annual flu vaccine this year are out of luck, for now.

By Stephanie Waddell on January 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Dr. Brendan Hanley

Any Whitehorse residents planning to get the annual flu vaccine this year are out of luck, for now.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, announced Friday afternoon that flu clinics in the capital are closed until further notice after running out of the vaccine.

While the numbers still have to be tallied, Hanley estimates about 9,000 vaccines have been provided in the territory this season.

With the information system for the flu vaccine down for a short period last week, Hanley said, exact figures are still being calculated.

“As predicted, Whitehorse has run out of vaccine, if a little sooner than anticipated,” Hanley said in a statement.

“This means that Yukoners have stepped forward to achieve an unprecedented rate of immunization against seasonal influenza. In turn, we will see better protection for those who can’t, won’t or are unable to obtain vaccination for now.”

This morning, Hanley said a total of 8,400 vaccines were ordered for the territory, along with 600 flu mists. A further 200 mists arrived in the territory last week.

In the communities outside Whitehorse, health centres are operating as usual. They have some vaccines available after already sending Whitehorse “all the doses they could spare.”

As Hanley noted, vaccine doses for each jurisdiction are ordered based on the number of people who received the vaccine in previous years.

The demand this year shows the high awareness among the population and the higher number of young and middle-aged adults affected by the H1N1 flu strain.

He stressed that in most cases, influenza is a mild to moderate illness.

“H1N1 is no more severe than other types of seasonal influenza,” he said. “However, when lots of people are affected, we do see individuals with more severe illness, especially those people with underlying chronic medical conditions.”

On Friday afternoon, that demand was evident at the Whitehorse Health Centre, where a flu clinic was held.

It was standing room only in the lobby as residents of all ages waited close to an hour for their turn, staff calling out names for the next person to get their vaccine.

By 2 p.m., with no vaccines to be administered by needle, the nasal mist that had been initially available for children only was being administered to all who came in for the vaccine.

The health centre ran out of vaccines and was closed at 3:30 p.m., about a half-hour before they were scheduled to close.

Hanley said “kudos” to the staff working at the clinic who kept wait times as short as possible and ran things efficiently.

Despite the high demand for the vaccine, long waiting times and a few who were turned away, Hanley said there didn’t seem to be any sense of panic among those at Friday’s clinics.

Perhaps next year, he said, people will consider getting vaccinated earlier in the season.

An estimated 400 came through the health centre for the vaccine on Friday.

Another flu clinic was held at the Kwanlin Dun Health Centre, but numbers for that clinic have not come through yet.

Hanley acknowledged those who were planning to get the vaccine and now may be frustrated.

“We are working with Public Health Agency of Canada to obtain more doses, but so is every other jurisdiction in Canada,” Hanley said

“As soon as we have more doses available, we will inform the public.”

He expects the territory will receive more vaccines this week, and is hopeful another flu clinic can happen at the end of the week.

However, he said, the scheduling of the clinic will depend on factors such as staff availability.

On Friday, for example, approximately nine additional nurses were brought in to administer the vaccines.

While some jurisdictions such as the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan are providing the vaccine on a priority basis, Hanley said that hasn’t, and isn’t likely to happen in the Yukon.

In many cases, he said, the flu is affecting younger and middle-aged adults with underlying medical conditions and in prioritizing people, there could be some who would be missed.

He also noted that the vaccine has been available in the territory since October 2013, so many have already been vaccinated who may have medical conditions or other specific reasons for getting the vaccine.

As residents wait for more vaccines and the next flu clinic, he said, people can take comfort in the high rate of immunization in Whitehorse as well as the fact that anyone who received a flu shot since 2009 or who had H1N1 influenza previously will be “at least partially protected,”

Hanley is also reminding Yukoners they can also protect themselves with “good health practices.”

Those include covering their mouths when they cough and/or sneeze or coughing and sneezing into their elbow, and frequent hand-washing.

Anyone who gets sick should also stay home to avoid spreading the illness, the doctor advises.

There’s been a total of 30 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in the territory, most being the H1N1 strain.

Three people have been hospitalized with the flu, though Hanley said he could not provide details on those cases.

Updates on clinic dates and times will be posted at http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca

CommentsAdd a comment

Denise G

Jan 13, 2014 at 5:12 pm

The population of the Yukon is 36,000.  And yet the number of vaccines sent to supply the Yukon was 9000?  A quarter of the population.  What is the other 3/4 supposed to do? 

Even if only half the population wants a flu shot that still leaves 9000 vaccines short.
I think that the health department should get on the ball and ensure that we receive enough vaccines to begin with.  This is incompetence.


Jan 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Quote “As Hanley noted, vaccine doses for each jurisdiction are ordered based on the number of people who received the vaccine in previous years.”
If they were to order more vaccines based on population, some would have to be disposed of and become a waste of money.  If more people regularly got their flu vaccine, we would have more on hand every year.  This is not incompetence, but good planning.


Jan 15, 2014 at 11:10 am

The Yukon can only bring in what is available to them. The rest of Canada also had their order in.  One manufacturer had to dispose of 1/4 of their supply due to a possible contamination.  There is only so much to go around. As well not everyone believes in getting a flu shot. Many people who never got the flu shot are getting it this year because people are dying across Canada and elsewhere from this flu. The Yukon medical team is doing what it can.  Personally I got my shot early instead of waiting for a lineup at the last minute.


Jan 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm

So people’s lives should be at risk because the previous year some didn’t feel it necessary to get the shot? That’s stupidity. We all pay in our taxes for the Canadian health care system so people who chose not to get vaccinated in the past helped in vaccinating those who chose to. So don’t tell me I don’t deserve the vaccine to be of ample supply when the need is higher. Really, it is incompetence.

Denise G

Jan 16, 2014 at 11:54 am

The flu season has months to run and it is already proving to be a bad year yet no one in the Yukon can get a flu vaccine because there are none available and it is not known if and when they will be available. 
So, yes IMO this is incompetence. 

It isn’t always about the money. Or rather it shouldn’t be and considering some of the foolishness that YG spends millions on I would rather see a loss (which is a write off) due to over stocking of flu vaccines.
Or if the vaccines are going to continue to be so extremely limited then those at most risk (elderly, very young, illness compromised, healthcare workers) should be the first to get the vaccines.  The rest would have to take their chance - just like this year.

Being prepared is better.

north of 60

Jan 16, 2014 at 10:11 pm

If you really wanted to get vaccinated for flu then why didn’t you go get it weeks ago? 
The consequences of your laziness and procrastination is your problem not the Health department’s.


Jan 16, 2014 at 11:57 pm

I could not have vaccine earlier because I was ill with bronchitis, but last Friday I was told they had vaccines for people aged between 2 & 59;. Over 60s they had no vaccine. What’s with that? I am not so old that I cannot tolerate needles and need the sniffer vaccine. I am not concerned for myself, but regularly visit CRP where my mother is a resident so cannot afford to unknowingly spread the joy should I become infected. Don’t they take life styles into account when they prioritize?

Denise G

Jan 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm

North60 - not laziness or procrastination.  Not able to get the vaccine up until now on doctor’s orders.  Conflict with cancer treatment.  Now I can’t get one.  There are months of flu season left.  There is no excuse for the Health Department’s incompetence.


Jan 17, 2014 at 6:06 pm

There is more vaccine in the territory now and probably more coming.  Everyone panicking for the flu vaccine as soon as they hear a death reported makes these problems far worse than they would normally be.

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