WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada has less than 1 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine ready for distribution, not enough to move up the start of its vaccination program, one of the country’s top health officials said on Tuesday.
Country-wide vaccination remains on track to begin in the first week of November, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones said in a conference call with journalists.
“It will move out very quickly in the next few weeks,” he said. “The timeline is primarily based on the availability of the vaccine.”
Canada, which has a population of 33.6 million people, has ordered 50.4 million doses of vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline.
The vaccination program won’t begin until Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq authorizes it, following clinical trials that begin this week and a review of studies from Canada and elsewhere, Butler-Jones said.
There are no plans to begin vaccinations sooner in the Pacific Coast province of British Columbia, he said, where some outbreaks of pandemic H1N1 flu have occurred this fall. Also called swine flu, the strain has hospitalized 93 people in the province and killed seven, according to the B.C. Center for Disease Control.
“The provinces and territories are doing all the work to put it in place so you can, rather than piecemeal, deliver an effective vaccine (program) for the whole country,” Butler-Jones said. “It’s a huge undertaking, so we want to get it right.”
A new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said on Tuesday that rapid roll-out of vaccines is effective in reducing the infection rate of the H1N1 pandemic virus. The study reported on a simulation model of an outbreak that projected how many people would be infected under different disease control strategies.
“It’s never too late (to vaccinate) and any disease averted is an important thing to do,” Butler-Jones said when asked if the findings raised concerns about Canada’s timing.
Seventy-nine people have died in Canada from the H1N1 strain.
Editing by Rob Wilson