Much has been made by the media of MLSE arranging H1N1 vaccinations for players from the Leafs, Raptors, and Marlies (the Toronto Star went so far as to claim it sparked a "fury" but all signs point to "not so much" on that call).
The City of Toronto Public Health Unit has been clear in stating that H1N1 vaccines are currently restricted to special populations (children under 5, those under 65 with health conditions, health care workers, etc.). None of the Raptors, Marlies or Leafs fit that description.
But what's missing from the media reports is any sense of context:
- Are these athletes the only non-priority populations accessing the vaccine?
- How many non-priority candidates are the clinics turning away?
- Will clinics refuse to administer the vaccine to people who are not in the at-risk/ targeted populations? (When my son, who is a priority candidate, went in for his H1N1 vaccine, the clinic staff also innoculated my daughter and my wife - neither of whom qualify for the vaccine. One of my aunts, who is over 65 has also been innoculated. I can only presume that because my family members are not pro athletes the news of their innoculation didn't make the papers.)
- Has the Minister of Health Deb Matthews, or any of her Legislative colleagues who are not priority candidates, had the H1N1 vaccine? What about any of the reporters filing these stories or the editors pushing them?
- Why are infection rates much higher in the NHL than in the general population?
- What is the Province of Ontario and Toronto Public Health's policy for closed populations, like the NHL, where there is a prevelance of H1N1? (There are about 690 players in the NHL and by my rough count, at least eight have been diagnosed with H1N1. If that rate of infection were applied to the province of Ontario, there would be over 125,000 cases of H1N1 reported. As of October 24, 2009, the province of Ontario was reporting fewer than 5,000 cases.)
Given the nature of our publicly funded, universally accessible health care system, I can't condone anyone jumping the queue. But it would be a nice change if the media could serve the public a side of context along with the heaping pile of inidignation they're dishing out on this one.
A good start would be asking a few basic questions.