Professional athletes get special treatment and special access, most of the time without incident. But a health official in Alberta, Canada allegedly went too far by providing professional hockey players and their families with H1N1 flu shots, just before the province suspended immunization clinics for the public because of an unexpected shortage of flu shots.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) says a Calgary Flames medical representative approached AHS in late October to see if a H1N1 immunization clinic could be made available to the Calgary Flames and their families. The Flames are a team in the National Hockey League.
The request was approved by an AHS official, and 150 vaccinations were provided to the players, their families, and team personnel on October 27. However, AHS says that the approval was a departure from established protocol and processes and that the official had inappropriately given the Flames preferential access.
After learning on November 2 about the decision to give the flu shots to the hockey players and their families, AHS launched an investigation. AHS fired the senior most employee involved in the decision. A second staff member involved in the decision was also dismissed. AHS withheld the individuals' names, citing legal and privacy reasons,
"The decision to allow preferential access to the Flames and their families was a serious error in judgment on the part of the staff involved," said Alberta Health Services (AHS) President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Duckett. "Our policies on vaccine distribution are designed to ensure an equitable distribution of the vaccine to all Albertans. The special treatment for the Flames and their families is unacceptable to us and contrary to all of our existing protocols and processes. I apologize for this breach of our duty to Albertans."
After the province suspended the H1N1 flu-shot clinics, health officials began a targeted-immunization effort for Albertans at high risk, including pregnant women, children six months to less than 5 years of age, people under 65 with chronic health conditions, people living in remote and isolated communities, and healthcare workers.
Source: Alberta Health Services