Tuesday, November 3, 2009

H1N1 Confusion

Last week, Battle-River Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths and I had a bit of a spat on his Facebook page. On that page, Mr. Griffiths was lamenting the fact that the H1N1 vaccinations were not going smoothly, and much of the fallout was being shouldered unfairly (he thought) by the provincial government.

When I wrote that I felt some of the criticism was fairly placed on his government, he responded he was surprised how uninformed I was, and that I was guilty of politicising the whole situation for personal gain (I ran against him as a Green candidate in 2008).

Firstly, I want to make it very clear that I am not blaming MLA Doug Griffiths for the mass confusion over the vaccinations for H1N1. I know he works hard for the people in his constituency and his integrity as an MLA is not something I question. Yet, after having taken the day off to have my own children receive the vaccination (one of whom is in the high risk category) and being turned away when the clinic ran out of vaccine, I was responding as a worried dad. I still maintain the perplexing messaging about H1N1 vaccinations has confused many of us, and that some responsibility rests on decisions made by the government... of which Mr. Griffiths is a member.

Witness the comments made on Friday by Alberta's Health Minister Ron Liepert to the Calgary Herald. He criticised the media for the anger he faced from the many Albertans forced to stand for hours to get their flu shot. "I don't think it's too much of an extension to say I'm disturbed by the media coverage...."
He continued: "We launched this program asking that the first week would be for those who were most susceptible and at high risk. We also launched by encouraging all Albertans to get vaccinated because all of the indicators we had was that far too many people were going to say this, too, will pass and I don't need to get vaccinated."

Huh? Which is it, Mr. Liepert?

I will concede that I became very concerned about the well-being of my family after the news broke on Tuesday that Evan Frustaglio, the healthy 13-year-old hockey player from Ontario died of H1N1.

Even as recently as last Wednesday, Premier Ed Stelmach said, "We're the province that is offering flu vaccines for every Albertan, not just to the high-risk groups." On Thursday, Mr. Stelmach said, "We're not asking only those high-risk groups to get the vaccine first. It's open to all."

With our own premier making such statements, it seems I am guilty of nothing more than actually believing what my government is telling me. My comments were not made from political opportunism, but rather from a feeling that there has been a confused messaging around the vaccinations and that a clearer plan could have been created to ensure the supplies of the vaccine matched the demand as those supplies came on stream.

In conclusion, I certainly concede that there are many factors to the current furor that were beyond the control of the government. Yet as an Alberta parent who simply wants to act in the best interest of my children, I am confused about why a more effective plan was not in place... especially considering the length of time we have known about this strain of influenza and why there has been so much confusion surrounding the plan that WAS allegedly in place.

I will take my fair share of responsibility for perhaps worrying too much about my own family and not about the larger picture, but I think it is also fair for the Government of Alberta to shoulder some of that responsibility... and for Doug Griffiths too, even though I recognise he is not in any way personally responsible.

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