Sunday, November 22, 2009

McGuinty's 'brutal' H1N1 response

Kalvin Reid wrote this editorial in "Province has become a vaccination hindrance" (St. Catharines Standard, Nov.17, 2009):

"Dr. Robin Williams, Niagara Region's medical officer of health, said it best.

"The level of control being attempted (by the province) is crazy," Williams told The Standard in an interview last week.

She is referring, of course, to the rollout of H1N1 vaccinations.

To its credit, Niagara Region has done a more than admirable job getting the vaccine out to local residents.

While lineups have been long at times, that is to be expected when a pandemic looms.

But once the public health department got through that initial rush, the crowds thinned.

Much of the priority group targeted for the first wave of vaccinations got their shots.

The Region wanted to expand the program and start inoculating all children under 18 years; the province said no.

So Niagara vaccination clinics sat largely empty, vials of vaccine remained stockpiled and, most importantly, people who could benefit from the vaccine - people for whom the vaccine could be a life-saver - remained at risk.

As the second wave of H1N1 began its retreat, the health department prepared to expand its vaccination program to its desired group - kids under 18.

Again, the province threw a restriction in place, saying only kids 13 and younger could now get the shot.

The Region is, for lack of a better word, ignoring the provincial directive. Effective Monday, the health department has made the H1N1 vaccine available to anybody who wants it.

The province's heavy-handed approach to administering the vaccine is ignoring local realities and lends credence to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's assessment that the province has been "brutal" in delivering a plan for the vaccine.

There is no better agency to assess and respond to local situations than a local health department.

If a local health department approaches the province with a request to expand vaccinations because they are ready for it, there is no logical reason for the province to deny that request.

The ultimate goal is to get as many people vaccinated against H1N1 as possible, and the sooner the better.

By its actions, by its desire to have total control over the whole program, the province is not helping in that regard.

It has become a hindrance."

Compare the Standard's take on the H1N1 response locally in Niagara to Niagara This Week's tepid editorial, "Play it smart: get your shot", (Nov.18, 2009):

"News that the Region’s public health department is opening up the floodgates for everyone in Niagara except for young toddlers to get H1N1 flu vaccinations should come as a relief to a lot of residents in this region.

While the swine flu pandemic that’s swept across the world hasn’t been nearly as deadly as originally feared — only two Niagara residents have been confirmed to have died from H1N1-related complications so far — ask anyone who’s endured having the virus and they’ll tell you it was a nasty two weeks or so to live through.

Most will tell you it was far worse than seasonal flu, which can make you feel like you’ve been run over by a train.

The Region has decided to expand the vaccination program to everyone even if it isn’t completely in-line with provincial guidelines, restricting shots for a priority group such as front-line healthcare workers and pregnant women.

There’s good reason for the Region’s change in plan: for more than a week, Dr. Robin Williams, chief medical officer of health for Niagara, has been saying virtually everyone in the initial priority group who wanted a shot had already received one.

Lineups were drying up inside the vaccination clinic inside regional headquarters.

Williams said it didn’t make sense to have vaccine sitting in a freezer while tens of thousands of Niagara residents were at risk of becoming sick, because they couldn’t get vaccinated.

Niagara residents should be proud of how they’ve handled this situation. Public health officials said there’s been no queue jumping, with people who didn’t qualify for the shots trying to cheat or muscle their way in to be vaccinated.

They waited patiently for their turn.

Now they’d be wise to get a shot as quickly as possible. As Williams said recently: you do not want to get this virus."

Niagara This Week couldn't bring itself to examine the Liberal government's heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all, centralized, statist approach.

No comments: