Queen’s H1N1 vaccine clinic postponed

Virus past its peak, public health physician says

A student wearing a face mask waits in the flu-assessment clinic at Student Health Services.
A student wearing a face mask waits in the flu-assessment clinic at Student Health Services.

The H1N1 virus has reached its peak and rates of infection are slowly declining but there’s no word on when Queen’s will receive the H1N1 vaccine on campus.

Student Health Services cancelled the flu clinic scheduled for Nov. 9 in Biosciences Complex.

“Unfortunately, due to a lack of availability of vaccine in Kingston … Public Health has postponed the H1N1 vaccination clinic that was scheduled at Queen’s,” said Dan Langham, director of Queen’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, adding that the clinic hasn’t been rescheduled.

Langham said a limited number of vaccines are available for students with diagnosed chronic illnesses. Students can contact Student Health Services for an appointment.

“What we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks is a spike in the number of faculty, staff and students suffering from influenza-like illness,” he said. “Despite the increase in the amount of illness on campus, University operations, at this point, haven’t been significantly impacted.” “We reached our peak approximately one week ago,” Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health physician Dr. Kieran Moore said, adding that emergency departments and urgent care centres saw about 400 patients per day, 40 per cent of whom were in for flu-like symptoms.

Moore said the rate of illness is about 30 to 40 per cent but he expects the number to drop to a 10 per cent baseline in the next three weeks.

The city is expecting more doses of the H1N1 vaccine next week, he said, adding he’s in communication with Ontario’s Ministry of Health on a daily basis.

The vaccine has been available for people under five years of age, those with underlying health problems under the age of 65, pregnant women, health care workers and care providers of those who are at high risk of infection, he said.

“We anticipate .... that we have had adequate coverage for most people in the first sequence and we’ll be able to open up the vaccination process to people in the second sequence which will be student age,” he said.

Kingston’s public health unit serves 180,000 people in the region, Moore said, adding that the city was given 39,000 H1N1 vaccine doses.

Most of those have been used over the past week, he said.

Moore said influenza outbreaks normally last eight to 10 weeks and the H1N1 epidemic is in its fifth week.

“Now we should see a steady, slow decline in the number of cases as people have been given immunity either by having had the virus or being given the vaccine,” he said.

The first wave of the virus was this spring and the country’s in the middle of the second wave, Moore said.

If there’s a third wave of the virus, it will hit in January, he said.

“It will be a much more minor influx of patients ... because our population is going to be vaccinated, and a significant portion is going to have had the flu,” he said. “We’ve reviewed the historic pandemics that have occurred in 1957 and 1968 and looked at their epidemiology. If there’s a third wave, it will not have the same impact as this second wave has had in our community.”

Dr. Gerald Evans, chief of the infectious diseases division at Kingston General and Hotel Dieu hospitals and associate professor in the School of Medicine, said everyone will be eligible to receive the vaccine in the next two weeks.

Priority hasn’t been given to students because the current priority groups that are infected have a harder time recovering from the virus despite their infection rates being lower, he said.

Dr. Evans said the two risks with the flu are the risk of catching the virus and the risk of developing a more serious illness from it.

“University students are considered to have an increased risk to catch the flu,” he said. “However, they can easily recover from it and they’re not as likely to suffer the consequences.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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