News  Vaccine queues cut amidst H1N1 worries

McGill urges students to remain patient

The government of Quebec has imposed strict guidelines over who can and cannot receive the H1N1 vaccine, but some have attempted to skip ahead in line at some Montreal hospitals.

When the vaccine was first released, the government demanded that only those who provide direct care to patients and those who are at very high risk receive the vaccine.

Despite these limitations, the Montreal Gazette reported on November 7 that 200 of the top donors to the Jewish General jumped the queue and received inoculations before they were eligible. Additionally, loose restrictions at Royal Victoria Hospital failed to prevent non-medical students from slipping into the line as early as two weeks ago.

According to Santé et Services sociaux Québec, the list of at-risk individuals who could receive the vaccine consists of pregnant women, chronically ill people under 65, children between six months and five years old, people living in remote or isolated locations or communities, health care workers, and people living with high risk patients who cannot be immunized, like babies under six months old and immune-compromised people. As of Friday, November 13, all Quebeckers under the age of 20 are eligible for the vaccine.

Wayne Wood, the head of McGill’s Pandemic Contingency Planning Committee, believed that the implementation of new policies and the distribution of sanitizer and information has already slowed the spread of H1N1 on campus.

“There has been a drop in the number of visits to the McGill Health Clinic, perhaps related to the self-reporting, which allows students to stay home and get well rather then go out and cause infections,” Wood said. “H1N1 is quite mild for most adults and young people, and they don’t really need medical attention.”

Wood said that one-seventh of the Quebec population has already been vaccinated, and that as this process speeds up, it becomes less likely that McGill’s day-to-day operations will slow to a halt.

Pierre-Paul Tellier, director of Student Health Services and director of the Office of Student Affairs for the Faculty of Medicine, told The Daily that he supports the government’s efforts to reduce risk and urges younger McGill students who are now eligible to be inoculated as soon as possible.

“As of [Friday], we are starting to immunize all those who are 19 and younger, so those students who are eligible can – and should – be vaccinated. This is good news because this date has been moved ahead by a week, so these students may all be fully protected by the time examination period begins,” Tellier said.

Tellier said he observed rigid application of the rules while at Place Alexis Nihon – the vaccination centre on Atwater where many McGill students are zoned to attend.

“They’re doing the vaccination according to risk, so those who are more likely to become fairly ill once they have become infected get the vaccine first. We have a list of diseases and immuno-suppressing medications that was given to us by the government,” Tellier said. “If a person comes in and requests the vaccination, but doesn’t have anything that is on that list, they are asked to come back at the time that they are supposed to be vaccinated.”

Tellier stressed that all McGill students should wait their turn rather than rushing to receive the rationed vaccine. “Skipping lines is natural human anxiety. However, the government has been very strict and been trying to apply the rules as stringently as possible to prevent the entire medical system from being overwhelmed.”

Two convenient clinics for McGill students are at Place Alexis Nihon at 1500 Atwater, or CLSC du Plateau-Mont-Royal at 4625 de Lorimier.