The fallout over hockey teams jumping the queue for the H1N1 vaccine continued in British Columbia Thursday, with a Western Hockey League team saying it vaccinated 11 of its players with doses its doctor believes would have otherwise gone to waste.
Paul Basson, team doctor for the Chilliwack Bruins, ran a flu clinic at his private practice on Sunday. To begin the day, he and his staff prepared 250 doses of the H1N1 vaccine, he told CTV. Such preparation requires it to be mixed, from which point it has a 24-hour shelf life.
By the end of the day, Dr. Basson said he had about two dozen doses left that would have expired by the morning. He elected to give them to his team rather than see them go to waste.
"Would you rather see me give them the shots or throw 25 perfectly good shots in the garbage can?" he told CTV, adding some of the players have conditions such as asthma that would have made them eligible for the vaccine anyway.
His comments came one day after revelations that the nearby Abbotsford Heat, a minor-league affiliate of the Calgary Flames, also offered the vaccine to its players.
The province's College of Physicians and Surgeons sent out a notice to doctors Thursday as a "reminder" that the doses are currently meant for certain at-risk groups.
"The College expects physicians to be aware of and comply with the priority list when administering the A/H1N1 Influenza vaccine," the notice said.
Asked about Dr. Basson's decision to vaccinate his players, B.C. public health officer Perry Kendall suggested doctors be more careful in not mixing shots they won't be able to use.
"We expect doctors to pre-book at-risk patients to match the supplies of vaccine that they receive," he wrote in an e-mail to The Globe.
Across Canada, public-health officials were rebuking teams that have already got the shot, as other at-risk groups - pregnant women, young children, and people with underlying health complications - continue to line up for the limited doses that are as of yet available.
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said it was "entirely unacceptable" that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, which are both owned by the same parent company, offered the vaccine to some of its players. The teams have declined to discuss the circumstances of each vaccination, or which players received it. Ms. Matthews said she was exploring what options the province has to reprimand people it feels queue-jumped.
"I don't care who you are, how rich you are, how famous you are," she said. "If you're not in the priority group, get out of the line and let the people who are in the priority groups get their vaccination."
In New Brunswick, the Moncton Wildcats had its players vaccinated late last week. Provincial officials issued a public reminder that the doses currently available are intended for the at-risk groups.