WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Close to 6 million Canadians, or about 18 percent of the population, will be vaccinated against H1N1 flu by early next week, Canada's chief public health officer said on Thursday.
"There's an awful lot of Canadians out there that will be protected going forward, more and more and millions more every week from now on," Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, told a news conference in Ottawa.
The governments of Canada's provinces and territories are responsible for immunizing residents after the federal government delivers the vaccine.
Butler-Jones did not directly comment on a story in Thursday's Globe and Mail newspaper that said more than half of the vaccine doses the federal government has distributed are sitting in storage because provincial governments aren't ready to use them.
"Pandemics are full of surprises," Butler-Jones said. "That first week (of vaccinations) was going to be messy. It's like any emergency, it's unpredictable."
The flu's spread is accelerating, Butler-Jones said, with the number of new hospitalizations, people admitted to intensive care units and deaths triple what it was last week.
The provinces will have 6.5 million doses of vaccine by Friday, with another 2 million doses arriving next week, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said.
Criticism of public health officials has been building because of long lineups for vaccinations, shortages in some provinces and news this week that the Calgary Flames National Hockey League team got its shots ahead of the general public.
GlaxoSmithKline PLC is Canada's sole supplier of the vaccine.
A second type of vaccine recommended for pregnant women and supplied by Australia's CSL Ltd is now available, Aglukkaq said.
Health officials repeated a warning that people should avoid supposed cures for the H1N1 flu that are circulating on the Internet.
Editing by Peter Galloway