Canada needs to be better prepared to handle an influenza pandemic, two major reports said Wednesday.
More than two dozen recommendations emerged in separate reports released by the Public Health Agency of Canada and a Senate committee that examined the H1N1 pandemic of 2009.
Both government bodies said that overall, Canada's response was effective, but more could have been done.
Better co-ordination and communication were key themes in the reports.
"For H1N1, lessons learned from the first wave were applied to activities during the second wave," the PHAC report said.
"It is expected that the lessons learned from this review will lead to an even more efficient and effective response to future pandemics and other types of national public health events."
A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that there were 8,678 hospital admissions related to the pandemic, including 1,473 admissions to intensive care.
There were 428 deaths across Canada.
The government report noted that some of the government's effectiveness stemmed from putting in place recommendations made following other disease outbreaks, like SARS in 2003 and listeriosis in 2008.
But some of the failures in handling the H1N1 pandemic were also due to the fact that other recommendations from those outbreaks weren't implemented.
Those included putting in place a public health surveillance system.
During the H1N1 outbreak, the report noted, it was difficult to track vaccine uptake and immunization coverage.
While Canada had a pandemic preparedness plan in place, the report also revealed that it wasn't as useful as it could have been during an actual flu outbreak.
The Senate drew the same conclusion, hearing from witnesses that the plan wasn't flexible enough.
"Canada, and the world, was fortunate that the pandemic was not more severe and it is possible that Canada's current pandemic plan and the country's public health infrastructure would not have been able to optimally address a harsher influenza pandemic," the Senate report said.
The Senate made 18 recommendations in their report, including the need for a backup vaccine supplier.
The current 10-year contract for vaccine supply expires next year and the government is currently in negotiations for a new one.
The reports also both raised concerns about the relationship between First Nations and the government during a pandemic.
Among other things, the government was roundly criticized for delaying a shipment of hand sanitizers to a reserve over concerns about alcohol content.
But Sen. Art Eggleton said his committee found that another problem is the underlying health conditions on reserves.
"One of the great concerns of the First Nations has been that in a number of these communities, the housing conditions and the inability to get clean water are terrible circumstances that feed these kinds of problems," he said.
But the first thing the government must do is at least stay the course by keeping funding going for pandemic planning, he said.
"We don't know when the next one is coming, we've got to be prepared for it," he said.
"The public wouldn't want us to do anything less."Report Typo/Error
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