Canadian Experts Share H1N1 Pandemic's Lessons

A roundtable hosted by CSA Standards produced a whitepaper suggesting how to prepare for the next one, with emphasis on vaccine development and PPE.

Canada's 2006 pandemic response plan worked fairly well when the H1N1 pandemic arrived last year, participants at a national roundtable organized by CSA Standards concluded recently. A whitepaper based on the conclusions by the panelists -- health care and emergency specialists, first responders, and representatives of nursing organizations and health care administrators -- was released June 8.

"The mildness of the H1N1 pandemic may have given Canadians a false sense of security about the potential devastating impact of future pandemics," said Dr. Allan Holmes, the roundtable's moderator and a pandemic planning expert. "CSA Roundtable participants were unanimous in stressing that 2009 should not be used as the new yardstick for future pandemic preparedness planning. We must remain vigilant in ensuring our pandemic plans continue to evolve as the threat of a more moderate or severe pandemic is always a possibility."

The whitepaper is titled "Voices From the H1N1 Pandemic Front Lines: A White Paper on How Canada Could Do Better Next Time." It discusses ways for health care and emergency services to collaborate more effectively with governments and key decision-makers. The participants also felt pandemic preparedness plans in various Canadian jurisdictions should be harmonized.

Given the time needed to develop a vaccine once a virus is identified, which was about six months with H1N1 influenza, panelists urged placing more emphasis on access to PPE -- such as respirators and masks, gowns, and gloves -- and antivirals.

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