OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's top health officials, responding to criticism over the speed at which they are rolling out vaccines for H1N1 swine flu, said on Friday that one in five or six Canadians should have their shots by the end of next week.
Vaccinations began this week, and Chief Public Health Officer David Butler-Jones said he expected that by next weekend six million Canadians would have received shots.
Canada has ordered more than enough vaccine for each of its more than 33 million people from GlaxoSmithKline Plc, but the death in the last week of a teenager and a 10-year-old girl has made many eager to get shots as soon as possible.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said it was unrealistic to expect the whole country to get shots immediately.
"This is a challenging task, the challenge of providing vaccines to 30 million people is a huge challenge. We are into Day 5," she said.
The authorities got a week's head start on their original plan of starting vaccinations in the first week of November, but they said GlaxoSmithKline was not able to roll out the vaccines as quickly as originally hoped.
The company has delivered about 2 million doses a week, 2/3 of what had been expected, and will deliver less than 1 million next week, but the expectation is still that everybody who wants a shot will get one by Christmas.
As for whether trick-or-treaters should stay home on Saturday night instead of going out for Halloween candy, Butler-Jones had this advice: "If children are sick, they shouldn't go trick-or-treating. I think this is common sense. If they're not sick, though, there's no reason to prevent them going out."
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Frank McGurty