The H1N1 vaccine is arriving too late for a remote native reserve in Northern Ontario, where one in 15 people are already sick with symptoms of the virus and the toll is climbing daily.
Four young children on the Kashechewan Reserve were confirmed with the H1N1 virus last Wednesday, two days before the fly-in community north of Timmins received enough vaccine for just over half of its 1,500 residents.
But as the rest of the community waits for their shots, about 100 residents have become sick with flu-like symptoms, and the number is growing daily, said Kashechewan Chief Jonathan Solomon. He has temporarily closed the two schools and is advising all visitors to postpone their travel plans.
Kashechewan is not alone. It's a similar story in other communities along the coast of James Bay, where inadequate housing in which multiple families are squeezed in together and chronic health conditions make them breeding grounds for the spread of the H1N1 virus.
Stan Beardy, Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said the federal government pledged to provide his 49 communities - identified as a priority group - with enough vaccine to inoculate everyone as soon as Ottawa began shipping vials to the provinces. But many of the communities have received less than half the doses they ordered, he said.
And it takes at least a week after the flu shot for the vaccine to become effective.
Arlene King, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, acknowledged yesterday that the remote northern communities were at the top of the list for getting vaccine.
"We're doing the best we can to try to prevent outbreaks in these communities," Dr. King told reporters yesterday.