Flu clinics swamped by 'overwhelming' crowds
Many people experienced a long, frustrating day as they spent up to seven hours in line waiting to get a swine flu shot at two overrun clinics in Toronto.
At the East York Civic Centre, some people started lining up at 6:30 a.m., even though it would only be open to the public at noon (health workers were to be vaccinated from 9 a.m. to noon).
By 2 p.m., organizers ended the lineup to newcomers, causing some tempers to heat up. People were still waiting to get shots by the early evening.
Only 14 vaccination stations were open inside. By the end of the day, officials expected to process 2,000 people.
At the North York Civic Centre, the line got shut down at 12:45 p.m. Toronto's chief medical health officer told a news conference that people should not come to the North York Civic Centre because they may not be accommodated.
"We don't want people waiting unnecessarily," said Dr. David McKeown.
He said extra staff were pulled from other public health services to help accommodate the crowds and that several new clinics would be available to the public this weekend.
"There will be more clinics opened next week and we will have a lot more capacity to get the vaccine to the public," McKeown said.
Those were the only two clinics for priority patients open Thursday in a city of 2.5 million people.
"We are trying to dissuade people ... if they don't fall in one of the priority groups, to consider all those who have been waiting who are in the priority groups or who are health-care workers and not have their vaccine until the week of Nov. 2," said Toronto Health's Joanne Cameron.
Those who are in a priority group include:
- people with chronic medical conditions (eg., asthma, diabetes) under the age of 65
- healthy children from six months to five years old
- care providers and household contacts of persons at high risk who cannot be immunized or may not respond to vaccines
- health workers
- pregnant women
For pregnant women, only those more than 20 weeks pregnant can receive the adjuvanted vaccine, which combines the active ingredient with an organic booster. Those who are fewer than 20 weeks pregnant must wait for the unadjuvanted vaccine, which will be available in the coming days.
"We understand this is challenging for people," McKeown said. "We are asking people for their patience as we're trying to move people forward who are in the priority groups."
For many parents, however, the story of the death of 13-year-old Evan Frustaglio earlier this week meant waiting longer for the vaccine wasn't an option.
Unfortunately, this meant delays for everyone.
Many people waiting in line for hours complained about the system being completely disorganized.
"What about if it was raining or freezing today and you have all these people waiting outside?" said Carolyn Weaver, a mom waiting for hours to have her child immunized.
One woman said it was cruel to leave seniors and small children to spend hours standing.
The City of Toronto began vaccinations for health-care workers on Monday. Clinics to inoculate the city's seniors against the seasonal flu virus began on Oct. 22.
On Tuesday, the city announced it would be accelerating the administering of the swine flu vaccine for people in priority groups, along with health workers.
Here is the flu shot clinic schedule for priority groups:
Friday, Oct. 30:
- Metro Hall, 55 John St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Scarborough Civic Centre (rotunda), 150 Borough Dr., 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.:
- Timothy Eaton Business and Technical Institute (Cafeteria), 1251 Bridletowne Circle
- Melody Public School (Gym), 24 Strathburn Blvd.
- East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Ave., lower level
- Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, rooms 1, 2 and 3
Starting Monday, 10 more clinics will open. Each clinic will be able to administer 1,800 shots in a seven-hour period. In addition, 561 doctors will begin administering the vaccine. They will be able to administer 500 shots per day.
This ctvtoronto.ca feature has all the Toronto clinic locations, plus those in Peel, Durham, York and Halton regions.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Janice Golding and Paul Bliss