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Wait times all over the map as H1N1 vaccine rolled out in Ontario

Wait times for the H1N1 vaccine varied widely Saturday as Ontario health units strove to meet demand on the first weekend of the shot's availability to the general public.

Nowhere was that more clear than in Toronto, where some clinics reported no lineups while others broadcast wait times of two hours.

"We're trying to draw attention to the four clinics that have no wait times," said Mary Margaret Crapper, communications manager for the Toronto Public Health Unit.

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At the health unit's website, vaccine-seekers could access a frequently-updated list of wait times at Toronto's 10 clinics.

Toronto Public Health was also one of a number of health units that used microblogging website Twitter to get information out to the public about the vaccine's rollout.

In Ottawa, Twitter users were routinely updated about the number of wristbands available at each of the city's six locations.

The wristbands allowed people to come back for their shot at a predetermined time, rather than having to wait in line.

Lineups were sparse in the London area, and at one point the Middlesex-London Health Unit was reporting no lineups at any of its four clinics.

The queues across Ontario swelled Thursday, the day after the province announced the general public - aside from babies younger than six months - could be inoculated against swine flu.

In London, where Health Minister Deb Matthews got her shot, 6,800 people were vaccinated within a five-hour window.

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Health officials in Toronto vaccinated about 9,000 people on Thursday and Friday, and the uptake Saturday seemed to match those numbers, said Crapper.

"They've been fairly consistent since Wednesday. That's when we moved to the general population," she said.

Like Ottawa, Toronto has a ticket system in place so that people don't have to wait in line.

In Sudbury, close to 200 people were lined up for their shots outside one location before its doors even opened.

Not every major centre in Ontario felt it necessary to inoculate people Saturday, however.

In Thunder Bay, where the vaccine had been available since before Wednesday, health officials didn't see the need to open any clinics, said Maureen Twigg, a manager with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

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Two weeks ago, the city's clinics were seeing between 1,200 and 1,300 people a day. Those numbers have now slowed to about 600 a day, Ms. Twigg said.

"Our turnout's been excellent, we feel," she said, adding clinics would reopen Monday.

Prior to this weekend, the province had said more than 2.5 million Ontarians had been inoculated against H1N1.

It was also the first weekend flu shots were available to the general public in three other provinces: British Columbia, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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