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A picture of a syringue and two flasks of Pandemrix A (H1N1) vaccine from Glaxo Smith Kline. (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER)
A picture of a syringue and two flasks of Pandemrix A (H1N1) vaccine from Glaxo Smith Kline. (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER)

Toronto doctor says he regrets urging flu shot for hospital board Add to ...

A high-profile doctor who encouraged board members at his Toronto hospital to get the H1N1 vaccine last week shot says he now regrets it.

Board members at Mount Sinai Hospital were offered the vaccine last Monday, the first day it became available, despite public health officials advising only those who were most vulnerable to line up for the shots.

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Donald Low, chief microbiologist at the hospital, said a clinic was set up on the first floor for staff and others. There was no word of a vaccine shortage at the time.

"It happened to be the same day that there was a board meeting at the hospital. And I encouraged board members to get the shot," Dr. Low said today. "There was no indication that there would be any shortage."

"What seemed like a good idea at the time was a bad idea. And you got to pay the price for it."

About 65 people, including physicians, volunteers and board members, got the shots, and roughly 15 of them were from the high-risk groups. Dr. Low said. Those considered high-risk include pregnant women, young children and adults with underlying conditions.

In a statement posted to its website, the hospital detailed the timeline behind the decision, saying that a shortage was not expected when the board members were given the vaccination.

Dr. Low said that the next day, news of the death of 13-year-old Evan Frustaglio, which resulted in more people wanting the vaccine. In the days following, the hospital restricted the shots to high-priority groups.

Queue-jumping has made Canadians edgier, especially because many have to wait in long lineups outside clinics or be turned away because of a shortage in supply.

Ontario's Health Minister Deb Matthews told reporters today that she frowns upon hospital board members, not in the priority groups, receiving the vaccine. She said that once this pandemic is over, there will be conversations about "where judgment perhaps was not used as it ought to have been."

As the H1N1 virus spread across the country, the vaccine roll-out has hit a few bumps. GlaxoSmithKline, Canada's sole vaccine manufacturer, has said there would be a shortage of the product because it had to interrupt production at its Ste-Foy, Que., plant to make a version of the vaccine for pregnant women.

Public health officials have rebuked teams who have already got the shot, as other at-risk groups continue to line up for limited doses. Hockey players for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames and the minor league Abbotsford, B.C., Heat have all been offered the vaccine.

With files from Josh Wingrove

The Globe on H1N1

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