Editorial: Alberta’s vaccine meltdown

By Katy Anderson

Albertans will let their Progressive Conservative government get away with almost anything, but when it comes to the health and safety of themselves and their family, voters should finally get mad.

The Stelmach government’s miscommunication regarding their administration of the H1N1 vaccine not only caused mass confusion, but left Alberta’s most vulnerable at risk.

While other provinces chose to only offer the vaccine to those most at risk, the Alberta government encouraged everyone to get their shots.

At least, that’s what Health and Wellness Minister Ron Liepert said Mon., Oct. 26.

“I urge all Albertans to go out and get immunized,” said Liepert.

Premier Ed Stelmach seconded Liepert’s message to the public later in the week.

“We’re not asking only those high-risk groups to get the vaccine first. It’s open to all,” said Stelmach.

Yet, as the public took up their provincial leaders by the thousands, those in charge of Albertans’ health changed their stance.

According to Liepert: “The message has been consistent from Day 1. We have asked only the high-risk Albertans to attend the clinics. That has never changed.”

The mixed messages from the province’s top dogs have undermined Albertans’ confidence in their health-care system, at a time when clarity on the daunting H1N1 issue would comfort many.

After days of hours-long line ups around the province, clinics were shut down Saturday morning, with no word of when they would reopen.

Then after a Monday caucus meeting — for which Stelmach cancelled an appearance to open Calgary’s long-awaited ring road — the Tories announced they had changed their stance on the issue. Clinics reopened Tuesday, but only for young children and pregnant women.

While Alberta health-care workers should be lauded for their efforts, Liepert’s new superboard has failed its first real test.

If Albertans want a health system they can trust their families with, they should voice their concern not only with Liepert, but with Stelmach’s leadership.

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