Nova Scotia workers must wait until December for their last-minute whooping cough vaccination after delay

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil criticized the province’s liquor corporation on Friday for a delayed delivery of a year’s worth of inoculations to employees at a lobster processing plant.

The 43,000 doses of Pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine are the result of Nova Scotia Public Service Employees Union grievances alleging that Public Service Employers Council, which manages the province’s public sector, had failed to meet its commitments.

The worker group had promised to distribute the vaccines on July 19, but Halifax regional health officer Dr. Mark Wilson announced the province was delaying the disbursement after it failed to receive seven truckloads of vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline. The formula in the vaccine could not be stored properly inside the federally regulated company’s warehouse.

“We decided to move ahead and administer the vaccine in another circumstance where we had a commitment,” Wilson said at a press conference.

The interim distribution was meant to give workers the chance to be vaccinated before the Nov. 30 deadline under the Dec. 31, 2011, budget. CNOOC Ltd. took over the Port Hawkesbury plant last year after years of operations, which it had struggled to improve.

The sale of the defunct plants still requires provincial approval, though McNeil indicated he expected the matter to be resolved within the 90-day stipulation of the agreement. Public Service Employers Council did not return repeated requests for comment.

“The union and the organization know what the consequences are,” McNeil said, adding that the private sector should make similar plans to save costs.

Chris Jordon, spokesman for the public service union, said the group had agreed to wait until government replied before implementing the plan to deliver the vaccine. He added that he had not received a request from the Nova Scotia Public Service Employees Union on Friday about the issue.

“We do not have any concerns with the warehousing,” Jordon said. “The [hire] dates had been in place.”

The Pertussis outbreak in the United States has been declared an international health emergency this year and caused major flare-ups in other Canadian provinces such as Quebec and Manitoba. Pertussis symptoms may include a runny nose, coughing and sneezing and, in severe cases, can cause coughing fits that stop breathing.

New York’s outbreak has contributed to a severe shortage of the vaccine on the East Coast and has been even worse in other parts of the country, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating the shortage has resulted in a shortage of up to 42 percent of nationwide immunization supply.

We do not have any concerns with the warehousing. The [hire] dates had been in place.

Walter Cronkite, president of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, issued a plea on Thursday for an emergency shipment of tetanus shots, emphasizing that current outbreaks have dramatically exceeded annual national immunization levels of inoculations for the disease.

“We hear that you have a shortage of Tetanus and Pertussis vaccines and that New York City Public Schools have not received any vaccines since June,” Cronkite wrote in a letter to BBC director general Tony Hall. “We want to ensure that the Academy and our Members are fully prepared for any outbreaks.”

“The greatest threat of an outbreak, however, is that it may be fueled by broader shortages of other public health vaccines,” Cronkite added.

In New York, the CVS Health pharmacy chain reported that more than 150,000 of the 1.8 million adult vaccines it had ordered for New York City had already expired by late July. The national CDC estimates that up to 500,000 potentially exposed New Yorkers may not have received the vaccines needed to prevent the disease.

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