Dairy did nothing wrong by immunizing workers: Health officials

Company ordered H1N1 vaccines before restrictions were put in place

A dairy company in Nova Scotia that immunized workers against the H1N1 flu virus did nothing wrong, according to the province's health officials.

Farmers Dairy gave about 100 employees in Hammonds Plains and Truro the H1N1 flu vaccine, including those who weren't in the priority groups.

The company ordered the doses weeks before the high-risk restrictions were put in place, when the Department of Health was allowing big employers to look after staff vaccinations.

Once the restrictions were put in place, the company offered to return the vaccine but was turned down, said Derek Estabrook, vice-president of marketing for Farmers Dairy.

Provincial health officials told the company there was no guarantee the doses had been kept at the proper temperature, said Estabrook. The company was told to use its best judgment and to administer the vaccine if it saw fit.

"It's far better they just keep using it than just have it sit in the fridge unused. Ultimately, all Nova Scotians are at some risk, so while it's not following our current rules, they were given the vaccine under a different set of rules and we just need to keep using it," Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer, told the CBC.

On Nov. 10, three new groups were added to the priority list, which now includes:

• pregnant women

• new mothers and new fathers

• children between the ages of five months and five years

• people in First Nations communities

• health workers who provide direct care to patients

• people under 65 with chronic medical conditions

• people living with/caring for infants under six months and those with compromised immune systems

• workers at residential-care facilities and group homes.

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