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Valid points for debating the Conservative Government’s handling of H1N1.

Apparently, the Conservatives and some media (note I said some, not most) are trying to claim that criticism of how the Conservative government has handled the H1N1 pandemic is over-politicizing a health issue, or something. If the government hasn’t handled this properly, why should their actions not be scrutinized? For example, here is a list of things the Liberals sent out to the press/media about the Conservative government’s mis-handling of the H1N1 pandemic:

While the Conservative government is blaming the provinces and the vaccine manufacturer for H1N1 vaccine delays, the facts show that the federal government delayed ordering the vaccine when compared to other countries.

The facts:

• Health authorities around the world saw this pandemic coming when it first hit in April and while many countries ordered their vaccines in May, the Conservatives waited until early August.

• The World Health Organization recommended production of the H1N1 vaccine on July 7, but the Harper government waited until after August 6 to place their vaccine order with GlaxoSmithKline, delaying Canadian vaccinations.

• The WHO also recommended unadjuvanted vaccines for pregnant women on July 7, but the Conservatives didn’t order them until September 4.  The federal government’s slowness to act on this recommendation means that production of adjuvanted vaccines had to be halted this week to switch product lines, resulting in lower shipments of vaccine to Canadians.

• Other countries placed their vaccine orders much earlier than Canada.  Both the United States and the United Kingdom placed its initial vaccine orders in May.  As of July 24, Novartis International AG had already secured orders for H1N1 vaccines amid discussions with more than 35 governments, including signed contracts with the United States, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The American order alone was a $1 billion order for H1N1 bulk vaccine, and was delivered well before the vaccine was available in Canada.

• China began mass vaccinations by administering its first H1N1 flu shots on September 21, Australia on September 30, the United States on October 5, Sweden on October 12, Japan on October 19 and Britain on October 21.  Canada didn’t start administering the H1N1 vaccine until October 26.

One can be accused of being “partisan”, but if there is a pattern of bungling that has taken place, as the Liberals are showing here, I see no reason why the Conservative government should be treated with kid gloves and not asked tough questions for their missteps on this. As others have said, it’s a matter of accountability.

UPDATE: I might also remind everyone that in addition to blaming the provinces and the vaccine maker,  the Health Minister was on record as also blaming the “panicked public” for the shortages. That’s supposed to be ignored because we’d be politicizing the H1N1 issue? C’mon.

UPDATE 2: If the Conservatives had bothered to spend as much money on H1N1 awareness as they apparently have done on the signs/advertisements about their economic action plan, maybe there wouldn’t have been as much panic or confusion.

UPDATE 3: Good point from Pogge: “You don’t get good government from people who think government is the problem“. Or competent government either, I might add.

UPDATE 4 @ 11:13am: Remember I said only “some” media are bringing up this question of whether it’s over-politicizing an issue. Here’s a helpful list of media that shows they feel it’s proper to question the government’s response on this:

In their own words – Ce qu’ils ont dit
H1N1 preparedness: Harper’s failure
***
(Quotes are included in their original language) /

GOVERNMENT ‘FAILED MISERABLY’ ON FLU (Chronicle-Herald, November 3, 2009)

URGENCY FROM FEDS STILL LACKING (Globe and Mail, November 3, 2009)

DID CANADA BOTCH THE VACCINE ROLLOUT? (National Post, November 3, 2009)

GELER POUR SE FAIRE VACCINER; CERTAINES PERSONNES ONT ATTENDU HUIT HEURES POUR QUE LEUR ENFANT REÇOIVE SA DOSE DE VACCIN (Le Journal de Montréal, 3 novembre 2009)

H1N1 STILL HAS THE UPPER HAND DUE TO BOTTLENECKS IN THE VACCINE SUPPLY LINE (Vancouver Sun, November 3, 2009)

“From the beginning of the H1N1 pandemic there has been a calm, verging at times on complacency, from federal officials.” (Globe and Mail Editorial, November 3, 2009)

“La campagne de vaccination contre la grippe A (H1N1) sera sans doute enseignée en administration publique comme l’exemple à ne pas suivre en gestion de crise.” (Myriam Ségal, Le Quotidien, 3 novembre 2009)

“If six million Canadians had already received their swine flu immunization – this being a country where polling suggests only about 16 million plan to get the shot – there would be no priority list left to immunize and no 3 a.m. line-ups by stressed-out parents.” (Don Martin, National Post, November 3, 2009)

“As a test of Canada’s ability to handle a truly severe pandemic… [H1N1] has raised serious questions.” (Globe and Mail Editorial, November 3, 2009)

“The feds cling tenaciously to a production claim that six million doses have already been delivered to the provinces… But somewhere between the factory floor and outstretched Canadian arms, a sizable portion of that shipment appears to have gone astray.” (Don Martin, National Post, November 3, 2009)

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9 comments to Valid points for debating the Conservative Government’s handling of H1N1.

  • Big Winnie

    HarperBizzaro had a great article, obliterating claims that it was the fault of the Liberals:

    http://harperbizarro.blogspot.com/2009/11/vaccine-contract-mytherlie.html

  • @wilson: The problem was, it’s hard to enforce guidelines at clinics. If you show up, and claim you have a certain health issue which qualifies you to get the shot, how are they to know? In Toronto, I looked to attend a clinic last week with my 4 year-old, and they advertised high-risk only. They only vaccinated others who insisted, and didn’t advertise that.

    The vaccinate anyone who shows up policy wasn’t a problem until it was suddenly announced that there would not be enough vaccine this week.

    I’m tired of people missing the point: H1N1 can’t be allowed to mutate. That’s why the vaccinations for it were so important. It’s not because it is more deadly than normal flu, it’s because it’s been in circulation already. This is the pattern which leads to a mutated virulent flu.

    Canada was late *ordering* the product. It’s a lot more than one week late. Everything, including trial work, could have been done much earlier. Other countries managed to get it much sooner, with trials done.

    Finally, stats on flu deaths are based on models. For every recorded flu death, there are many more not noticed, and the models reflect that. Ditto with H1N1. The 97 deaths due to h1n1 are counted deaths. The actual total is higher.

  • wilson

    -The feds sent out guidelines for high risk groups that should be first in line for the H1N1 shot, September 16/09, the Provinces did not follow the guidelines:

    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/media/nr-rp/2009/2009_0916-eng.php

    -Alberta still held 300k (of the 700k received) doses of H1N1 vaccine, when clinics were shut down this weekend,
    due to staff shortages and a re-allignment with the Federal guidelines.

    -China secured enough vaccine for only 5% of their 1.3 Billion population,
    Canada has already distributed enough vaccine for 18% of Canadians.

    -GSK was manufacturing vaccine for the seasonal flu, this flu kills 4000 Canadians a year,
    so was ONE week later getting started with the H1N1 vaccine,
    H1N1 as of yesterday has caused 97 deaths in Canada.

    -The Govt of Canada insisted on safety, the killed vaccine takes longer to produce, and trials to be completed before the realease of the vaccine.

    -In the US a medical group was in court first week in October fighting the US mass vaccination program, as the first vaccine available in the US was LIVE, suspect in infections, and not thouroughly tested.

  • Anon

    Scott,

    Butler-Jones has now admitted that the 10 yr contract with GSK obliges it to produce vaccine for Canada, however, it does not oblige Canada from getting the vaccine from another source as has already been done with the Aussie suppliers. Here is the link;

    http://www.healthzone.ca/health/newsfeatures/swineflu/article/720188–ottawa-rethinks-plan-for-flu-shot-suppliers

    Here is a direct quote from the article:

    “Butler-Jones said the terms of the contract with GlaxoSmithKline, which Public Works said could only be obtained through a request under the Access to Information and Privacy Act, does not prohibit Canada from purchasing vaccine from another supplier – as it did when it bought 200,000 doses of adjuvant-free vaccine from Australia for pregnant women last week – but he said there are no plans to do that for the regular version because there is no global excess of vaccine and he expects shipments to ramp up next week”

    So much for another Cons misinformation.

    I watched the debate last night and was wondering whether Rob Clarke was goint to shed a few tears when he stated how upset he was with the opposition parties politicizing the issue. Then he repeatedly brought up the unfortunate incident of the 10% from a Lib MP (who had since apologized). I guess he did not think it was politicizing when he does it himself.

  • Christina Monroe

    Well I am lucky enough to live in a remote location, Yellowknife, NT so I got my H1N1 vaccine last week. I give credit to the NT health minster MLA Sandy Lee for running a well thought out clinic. We had a 6 day clinic in Yellowknife, they have now moved onto smaller communities. They will be back in Yellowknife to give the boosters for the young children. I waited less than 20 minutes.

    I wish I could say the same for my poor mother in Winnipeg. She needs to get vaccinated she has a chronic health condition and is the primary care provider for my grandmother who is battling Cancer. Even though she falls into the group that is eligible to get vaccinated. There is not enough to go around, the line ups are insane. My mother is not well enough to stand in line. There is not enough vaccine in Manitoba to cover health care professionals.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2009/11/02/mb-h1n1-clinics-priority-winnipeg.html

    It is shameful that people are confused and unable to get vaccinated.

    The government needs to be take responsibility for the confusion, and make it better. This is not about political parties it is about a government failing to own up to it’s mistakes and fix the problem before more people get sick and die.

  • @Canadiansense: You seem to “forget” that there’s a shortage of vaccine in Canada due to the Conservatives ordering it late, well past when other, more competent, governments ordered it.

    If H1N1 mutates, which, though unlikely, is the real problem we are trying to fight, we will have no defense against it.

    We have a Government that doesn’t believe in have contingency plans.

    Of course, this is from “Conservatives” who also don’t think we need a proper contingency fund in our federal budget.

    No surprises. As with the Harris/Eves government in Ontario, we have leaders who rule from ideology, not competency. Remember Walkerton, anyone? The Harris Government lobotomized the oversight of rural water supplies, despite knowing none could be well managed by small municipalities, and look what we got.

    The only competent thing I’ve seem this government due is raid taxpayer funds at a record rate for Conservative Party private interests. I don’t need $60 million in ads to tell me Conservatives are spending taxpayer money.

    We can’t and won’t ever get good government from a bunch of hyper-partisan ideologues bent on tearing government down.

    HarperBizarro has a great post tearing the Conservatives a new one on this issue.

    The Harper Government — let’s remember to keep calling it that so Harper can wear each and every boondoggle — didn’t even have the smarts to order a batch of vaccine not made from eggs so as to accommodate people with egg allergies.

    Impolitical has great references too on the lack of H1N1 preparedness by The Harper Government.

    • @Mark Francis,

      Mark Francis the problem with fearmongering, distorting the facts, creating confusion and hysteria the TRUTH has a way of coming out.

      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/h1n1-swine-flu/more-than-half-of-vaccine-doses-sitting-in-storage/article1351752/

      numbers compiled from government sources show that provincial authorities have so far injected fewer than three million doses, or less than half of the available supply.

      While blame for the lack of progress in getting needles into arms has fallen on everyone from the federal government to the provinces and the vaccine maker, public health officials said yesterday that the provinces weren’t ready because they thought Ottawa’s approval process would go more slowly.

      Perry Kendall, British Columbia’s public health officer, said delivery of the shots is lagging because of Ottawa’s quicker than expected approval of the H1N1 vaccine. The infrastructure for administering the inoculations, which includes volunteers and vaccinators, was ready to begin rolling on Nov. 9, but Health Canada gave its approval the week of Oct. 26.

      SO SUPPLY was NEVER a problem.

      A simple Math test proves the cuts in Billions from the Federal Liberals in the 90’s, Bob Rae’s decision to cuts in students from medical schools is to blame?

      Fewer than three million doses, or less than half of the available supply has been used.

  • Many of us believe the media and opposition are looking for ideas to boost their sagging tv ratings, opposition their polling numbers.

    MSM, Tom Hudak, Michael Ignatieff are wrong for turning a serious issues into a game.

    I linked on my post video clips from experts regarding the first wave of H1N1, now in the second wave we have repeated the same hysteria and hyperbole.

    Where is the math, science and cooperation in reviewing this issue? This is not the Spanish Flu that killed 50 million and this like SARS will have a serious financial hit on our economy with the fear mongering. In 100 days we have an historic moment showcasing our country.

    http://canadiansense.blogspot.com/2009/11/media-and-opposition-parties-need.html

  • Scott your attempt at framing this arguement violates simple rules in math, science and logic.

    Partisans introduce money on EAP advertising is related to the issue. ( No link)It has no bearing to H1N1 “plan”.

    We don’t have line ups in BC why? What did AB and Ontario do differently? Did every province roll out the “plan” differently? Where are those line ups? Are these line up across Canada or in less than 10 cities in 2-3 provinces that decided to set up a mass immunization clinic without the proper logistics and strategic planning? Did AB not follow the recommendations only priortiy groups first? Did Ontario fail to staff their events to have only the priority lists get their number-tag?

    This week those two provinces are back on the “plan” and have fixed their lines? Why can’t the NEWS find the line ups this week?

    Partisans argue “supply and shortage” Reality check math does not add up.

    How did 6 million samples get used up in 8 days, most estimates think no more than 2.5 million Canadians will be administered by end of this week.(15 days)

    The booster shot is being recommended by Canadian Health Experts. The Americans overestimaed their supply without the booster and will be far behind in vaccinating their own population.

    Are we comparing the US to Canada in the amount of days or the % of vaccines available to it citizens. (How many days, list the countries ahead of us and the number of days)Not a big difference perhaps so leave out the details?

    6 million doses with booster for 33 million vs 26 million no booster for 280 million, need a calculator who is better off? Seasonal flu kills thousands of 65+ annually in Canada and the decision to make that available was correct. So far we don’t have a spike in seasonal flu deaths of this group and they are NOT in the high risk group for H1N1.

    So is the 6 million doses in the hands provinces, local health officials being delivered, who is responsible for sticking the needle in your arm?

    How large is the high priority group, is their enough for them and will it take 3 weeks 15 days to give them the shot? If people who are not on that list show up and don’t get turned away who is responsible? Did AB, ON change their minds this week?

    Look at other provinces BC, MB, SK, QC, NB, NL, NS are they following the AB,ON model?

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