Flu vaccine clinics cancelled across Saskatchewan
Flu vaccine clinics are being cancelled across Saskatchewan this weekend as Canada suspends distribution of the immunization made by the company Novartis.
This comes as clumping of the virus was noticed in some batches of the vaccine made in Europe.
"It looks like the clumping is not an issue that is causing any adverse effects," said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer.
"People who have already received it, there is no reports of any adverse effects. So no concerns in terms of if you've already received it."
The tiny clumps could be between the proteins that help the body create an immune response, which means the vaccine might be less effective, he said.
"Now whether that may cause any reduction in effectiveness or not is exactly the reason why it's being put on hold for the time being … Until they learn more about whether it is just a harmless observation or whether it may reduce effectiveness."
Saskatchewan is waiting on information from Europe and Health Canada. If testing shows there is a minor reduction in effectiveness, there would likely be no need to revaccinate, but if there was a big reduction, people might need to get the vaccine again, Shahab said.
It might be one to two weeks before they know more.
In the meantime clinics are cancelled on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while health officials seek to get another brand of vaccine from a different province - there are three manufacturers of flu shots that Canada purchases and the others are still being used.
Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island are the most affected by the hold because these two provinces received the Novartis vaccine almost exclusively.
"For us it's a bigger inconvenience for the public than in other provinces," Shahab said.
As they wait for results, health officials are concerned about the momentum of the immunizations program.
"That's unfortunate. We are very hopeful that pending the Health Canada review we can say that the clinics can resume in the near future either with the same vaccine or another product," he said and added, people should still be confident because even minor concerns result in action "just to maintain the high degree of safety and quality that vaccines have."
"The overall message still remains that influenza vaccines are extremely effective, they prevent influenza, they prevent secondary infections, so for all persons they are recommended."
Shahab said people can check with their health regions in four or five days to see when clinics will be ready to go again.
There were delays from Novartis with this vaccine earlier in the year, but Shahab said he can't say whether the delay in product had anything to do with what is happening now.
But he adds that the vaccination did pass the
testing for quality, purity and safety.
A mass immunization clinic was planned for Saskatoon City Hospital on Saturday. That clinic will not proceed. However, a measles immunization clinic at the site will proceed as planned from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
More information is also available from Health Canada.
Follow on Twitter: @Angelaislost