Over the past six months, we have all heard many media reports regarding the H1N1 flu virus. This column will give you some facts that should give you confidence in both our provincial and federal governments’ plans. Back in 2006, our government budgeted $1 billion to better prepare Canada to respond to public health threats, - including a flu pandemic. After the SARs flu scare it was obvious to our government that we needed a national plan to address these types of pandemic health risks.
In light of today`s H1N1 flu challenges, our Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, has had several meetings with all provincial and territorial Ministers of Health. Our Minister announced $10.8 million to fund a national influenza network focused on evaluating pandemic vaccines. It is important the H1N1 vaccine is safe and does not have any dangerous side effects. Our Minister has also approved expenditures to fund informational advertising so that Canadians will better understand the problem and what their government is doing to resolve this health threat.
In Canada every year, we have a flu season and actually normally three to four thousand high health risk patients die annually as a result of the common flu. H1N1 flu to October 1st 2009 is attributed to having caused 78 deaths in Canada. This is lower than a normal flu season. The challenges with H1N1 flu is that it is very mobile and therefore, could spread quickly. It is for this reason that our government is moving quickly to have adequate vaccine inventories to ensure all Canadians will have access to the vaccine.
On Monday October 5th 2009, the Minister of Health informed members that the flu vaccine will roll out in early November. Tests are being finalized and it is important that the research is completed before vaccines are distributed.
The truth be known, Canada is a world leader in pandemic preparedness. In a global community where people are very mobile it is important that we have a plan to deal with any health threat to Canadians. I hope these comments give you confidence and peace that health care providers are working on your behalf.
Colin Mayes MP Okanagan Shuswap