Flu vaccine doses run low in Northern Saskatchewan

By Nigel Maxwell
November 30, 2018 - 1:34pm

The Grand Chief of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation said proactive steps were taken in response to a perceived flu outbreak, and that included several schools cancelling classes.

Peter Beatty told paNOW the communities of Pelican Narrows, Southend and Deschambault Lake have been hit hard by influenza. He added the school closures would not be permanent.

"It's just a temporary thing, I think everyone will resume classes on Monday," he said.

Beatty said their communities start giving out the vaccine in October to try and get ahead of the flu season, but they have noticed an increase in demand this year.

"We kind of ran out up here because we were trying to keep up with the vaccinations, but we managed to get 400 more doses," he said.

The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority acts as the go-between the provincial ministry of health and the communities contained within Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, Prince Albert Grand Council, Meadow Lake Tribal Council, and Lac La Ronge Indian Band. Medical Health Officer, Doctor Nnamdi Ndubuka, confirmed for paNOW, there was a shortage of vaccine doses this year, due to mostly to an unexpected demand. He said a number of factors played into it.

"There were a lot of people presenting with flu like illness coupled with the fact there was a child who died. The child is from Pelican but was living in Prince Albert so that caused some sort of panic," he said.

As of Nov. 29, NITHA had 51 lab-confirmed cases of influenza with 77 per cent traced to H1N1. Ndubuka said once the shortage was recognized, the provincial ministry of health was immediately contacted and a second batch was soon delivered to the communities. A third batch was also expected to arrive on Friday.

"We also have some back up supplies now in Prince Albert and so once we get any requests from any community in the north, we'll be able to ship the vaccine right away," he said.

Ndubuka said orders each year are based on demand from previous years and they had no way to know how big the demand would be this year. Ndubuka added he has heard concerns regarding a repeat of a 2009 epidemic and he said that is not the case.



On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell

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