Long lines for long-awaited H1N1 vaccine

Almost a week ahead of schedule, the Scarborough Civic centre was one of the first H1N1 vaccination clinics to open its doors on Oct. 26.

People began lining up as early as 4:30 a.m. in hopes of being one of the first to get their H1N1 vaccines.

“Because of the recent deaths, we moved up the clinics for priority groups only, that’s why they were opened ahead of the scheduled dates,” says Rishma Govani, media relations spokesperson fr the city.

Children, the elderly, and people with health concerns were encouraged to get their shots before the general public, but no one was turned away.

“It was a little bit touch and go, just because we have an honour system,” says Govani in regards to people who aren’t part of the high-risk groups showing up at the clinics. “Health officials were trying to get priority groups and we were really trying to encourage them into coming first. Since Saturday we’ve gotten really strict about it.”

Govani says the large numbers of people lining up was not expected by Toronto Health officials.

“This was unprecedented. The panic either from the heightened media awareness or the death of a Toronto teenager really brought people out.”

Clinic staff has been trying to manage the lineups and the average wait time has been decreased to about an hour and a half, Govani says.

“A lot of the chaos and confusion has been reduced. We’re having additional staff, additional resources and working with the media to make sure that we have the correct messages and that people really understand who the priority groups are and whether or not they qualify,” she says.

Jhada Alwin got her H1N1 vaccine on the first day the Scarborough Civic Centre opened its clinic and she was back four days later for her son to get one as well.

“I am worried. I saw the news, many people have been dying, especially that 13- year-old boy, and it scared me a lot,” Alwin says.

The vaccination clinics officially opened to the general public on Nov. 2. For a full list of all clinics in the GTA clinics, visit toronto.ca.