by Joel Smith

No, Canada -- KELOWNA, B.C. -- Perhaps in response to the news that thousands of disenfranchised Americans are threatening to move to Canada after last week's election, officials from the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services announced this week that Canada is closing its borders to Americans hungry for flu vaccine.

A new national policy limits the provision of flu vaccines to high-risk Canadian citizens and stresses that all Americans who currently have an appointment to visit British Columbian vaccine clinics will not be able to receive a vaccine and are urged to cancel their plans.

Dr. Kim Marie Thorburn, health officer for Spokane County, has been working to spread the news. "We don't want people seeking flu vaccine to make a long trip to Canada only to be turned away when they arrive," says Thorburn.

Canadian officials say they have seen a steady increase in the number of people getting their flu shots every year, but stress that this year is a doozy, considering the shortage in the States and the increased publicity created by that shortage. The new restrictions, they say, will ensure that Canadian children, the elderly and other at-risk groups will get the first crack at the vaccine.

What effect the new Canadian policies will have on America's vaccine shortage is unclear. Spokane County officials continue to suggest that people at high risk of influenza complications persist in seeking vaccine locally, by checking or by calling (509) 324-1643.

What effect Canada's cold shoulder will have on disillusioned American Democrats is even less clear. But then, they haven't yet invented a vaccine for political heartbreak.

Pilgrim's (Lack of) Progress -- SPOKANE -- When The Inlander went for its weekly wheatgrass colonic solution at downtown Spokane's Pilgrim's Nutrition on Tuesday, it was met with a sobering announcement taped to the front door: "It is with great sadness that we have decided to close this store."

Another customer arrived at the door, looking confused. She read a few lines of the typed letter and emitted a soft aaww. "Bummer," she said. "Well, I know things were slow around here."

Indeed. Pilgrim's is boarding up its flagship store after nearly 40 years in business because, as company vice president Joe Hamilton says, "the store hasn't been making money for quite some time, and we held onto it ... just for sentimental reasons."

Though Pilgrim's Nutrition has seen success with its four other Spokane-area stores, two stores in North Idaho and 11 retail shops in Seattle, Hamilton says the downtown Spokane location simply wasn't supplementing the company's income.

"The customer traffic hasn't been what it used to be for a good 10 years or more," he says. "Even despite the resurgence with all the downtown activity; it didn't seem to do much for that store."

He adds that "it doesn't by any means indicate that we'll be moving out of the market, or closing more stores" and that it's not symbolic of Spokane moving away from health foods.

Many locals would agree, pointing to the success of stores like Huckleberry's -- not only as an indicator that Spokane takes its vitamins, but that Pilgrim's has been unable to keep up.

Hamilton disagrees with the latter. "The [downtown] store wasn't doing well long before Huckleberry's opened. It's tough down there." He hints at a new store in the works, saying that they're looking within a one- or two-mile radius of the old location.

Interestingly, the now-defunct downtown store has continuously been a health food store longer than any health food store in Washington state. When Joe Hamilton's father, Tom, opened it in the late 1960s, it had already been peddling health goods for 30 years.

Which leaves at least one Inlander reporter a) wondering if the legacy will live on, b) still in need of a colonic, and c) half-expecting to see Huckleberry's signs in the window next week.

Correction -- In our Oct. 14 issue, we erroneously noted that the Blue-Green Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental interests, was backing Initiative 297, the Hanford clean-up measure. The Alliance took no official position on the initiative, but one of its member groups, the Lands Council, did endorse it. The initiative passed.

Publication date: 11/11/04

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About The Author

Joel Smith

Joel Smith is the media editor for The Inlander. In that position, he manages and directs and edits all copy for the website, the newspaper and all other special publications. A former staff writer, he has reported on local and state politics, the environment, urban development and culture, Spokane's...