Publicity over the death of a Toronto teenager within two days of showing symptoms of the H1N1 virus led to paranoia that has overwhelmed flu vaccine clinics across Canada.
Evan Frustaglio, 13, whose flu symptoms rapidly became fatal, sadly made him the public face of the virus.
Thousands of people are flooding clinics with waiting times in many cases in large cities exceeding six hours.
Despite somewhat widespread distrust by the public over the vaccine's safety, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said the "sad case" is a reminder of why it's important to get the H1N1 vaccine.
"There is very good science that has gone into the decision to supply the vaccine to everyone who needs it," she said.
With pockets of flu outbreaks growing, Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, said the response in the first week of giving the shots has been "quite overwhelming."
He is asking that people at "low risk of severe disease" to wait a few weeks to focus on the people with the greatest need.
Delivery of H1N1 vaccine nationally will slow over the next few weeks because the manufacturer was asked to make special batches of the product for pregnant women, he said.
Loonie's retreat eases economic concerns
Concerns that the higher-valued Canadian dollar could erode the economic recovery have eased as the currency retreated from near parity with the U.S. greenback.
The dollar reached 97 cents U.S. two weeks ago but has now settled at 92 cents after comments by the federal Bank of Canada that it could rein in the currency if it gets too high.
A higher-valued dollar causes Canada's exported products to cost more while it benefits "snowbirds" and Canadians visiting and shopping in the United States.
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has called on the central bank to move on the dollar if it risks the recovery.
Central bank Gov. Mark Carney said history has shown that intervention "without policy moves" is seldom effective over the long term.
News in brief
• There are reports the National Post newspaper could soon stop publishing if the courts don't allow its transfer to a new holding company within Canwest Global Communications. The money-losing daily, with 277 workers, is essential to a successful restructuring of the insolvent media conglomerate, lawyers said. Canwest amassed $4 billion in debt after buying Conrad Black's newspaper assets and Alliance Atlantis specialty TV channels.
• The Olympic torch arrived in Canada from Greece on Friday, and a party was held in Vancouver in advance of the 2010 Winter Games. The flame will travel 28,000 miles throughout Canada and return to B.C. Place Stadium for the opening ceremonies. The Games will take place in Vancouver and Whistler Feb. 12-28.
Facts and figures
Reports that Canada's gross domestic product shrank 0.1 percent in August and lower commodity prices pulled down the dollar by more than 1 U.S. cent on Friday.
The dollar was trading for 92.28 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returned $1.0836 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The key interest rate at the Bank of Canada is steady at 0.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.
Stock markets are lower, with Toronto's composite index at 10,880 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,280 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 18, 26, 32, 34, 43, 44; bonus 37. (Oct. 24) 5, 13, 25, 34, 36, 46; bonus 41. Lotto Max: (Oct. 23) 4, 7, 10, 12, 23, 25, 36; bonus 18.
• French billionaire Vincent Bollore will invest $120 million to expand a battery-producing factory in Boucherville, Quebec, in a bid to bring his affordable electric cars to market. His company, Bollore Group, wants to boost annual production to 15,000 batteries using lithium-metal-polymer technology to give his cars a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 65 mph.
• Greyhound Lines will keep its buses running in Manitoba, at least for now, after reaching an agreement with the provincial government. The company had threatened to end service in the next week and in Northern Ontario next month unless it receives $15 million a year in subsidies on the largely remote routes.
• Strike votes will be taken after contract talks broke off between 3,500 hospital workers and eight of Nova Scotia's district health authorities. The members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees are seeking wage parity with workers employed by the Capital District Health Authority.
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]