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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Three Canadian provinces have delayed their seasonal flu vaccination programs for most residents, citing unpublished studies that link the vaccine to H1N1 swine flu.
Preliminary Canadian research suggests people who have had seasonal flu shots could be at a greater risk of catching swine flu. However, federal health officials are skeptical, with Canada's top doctor saying on Friday that other countries have also studied the possible link and not made the same finding.
"I'm not worried about the seasonal vaccine," said Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, adding, "I think a lot more work needs to be done."
Health officials were examining the studies' results, Butler-Jones said.
Researchers said this week that their preliminary studies, which have not been published or peer-reviewed, suggest people who had received a seasonal flu vaccine in the past were twice as likely to get the H1N1 virus, according to media reports.
Responsibility for seasonal flu vaccinations falls to the provinces, while the federal government has taken the lead against the H1N1 pandemic virus.
Butler-Jones said he personally will be getting both the seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines as soon as they're ready.
"(A link between the two) is all speculative," he said.
On Thursday, Ontario became the first province to delay seasonal flu vaccines and will only provide those shots ahead of an H1N1 vaccination to people over 65, who are seen being at a higher risk.
Seasonal flu vaccine will be available to the rest of the province after the H1N1 flu vaccination, starting in November.
The provinces of Quebec and Saskatchewan took similar steps on Friday.
The H1N1 flu pandemic has killed 78 people in Canada.
Editing by Rob Wilson