Canada puts in place a national plan to ensure an adequate flu vaccine supply

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Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on the public flu vaccine supply.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, provinces and territories have put in place a national plan to ensure an adequate flu vaccine supply for people in highest risk groups.

Per capita, more Canadians receive the flu shot than residents of any other country. The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu virus, so it is encouraging to see that even more Canadians are getting the flu shot this season than ever before.

Due to unprecedented, early demand for the flu shot, the Public Health Agency of Canada, provinces and territories have taken the following actions:

  • Purchased 145,000 doses, in addition to the 10.75 million already purchased, of the flu vaccine to be distributed among provinces and territories based on their immediate need.
  • Identified those at highest risk to be targeted with the 145,000 doses purchased.
  • Co-ordinated the redistribution of surplus vaccine among provinces and territories and initiated planning for further redistribution should surplus supply become available as the season continues.
  • Contacted, through Public Works and Government Services Canada, international vaccine manufacturers to explore options for purchasing additional doses of the flu vaccine.

Certain groups are at higher risk of complications from the flu. The priority of the Public Health Agency of Canada, provinces and territories is to protect these groups by ensuring that they receive the flu shot. These identified high-risk groups include:

  1. Adults and children with chronic cardiac or pulmonary disorders severe enough to require regular medical follow-up or hospital care.
  2. a) People 65 years of age or older.
    b) Children and adolescents six months to 18 years of age with conditions treated for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid (ASA).
    c) People of any age who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities.
  3. Adults and children six months to 64 years of age with chronic conditions, including cancer, immunodeficiency, immunosuppression (due to underlying disease and/or therapy), renal disease, anaemia and hemoglobinopathy.
  4. Healthy children six to 23 months of age.

While this purchase meets current demands, it is still early in the flu season. Increased awareness and interest in immunization, as a result of the current flu vaccine shortage in the United States (US) and the addition of a new high risk group for immunization (healthy children six to 23 months old) in Canada, has led to this unexpected increase in demand. An increase in flu activity in Canada could also lead to higher demand for the flu vaccine.

There are two separate supplies of flu vaccines in Canada. The public supply is purchased by governments to vaccinate people in high-risk groups and their close contacts (except in Ontario which offers a universal flu vaccine program and the Yukon which offers the flu vaccine to anyone over 18 years of age). Various organizations throughout the country have private contracts to provide flu vaccination clinics for workplaces, etc. These organizations purchase their private vaccine supply directly from the manufacturer. The Public Health Agency of Canada, provinces and territories are not involved in the administration of these private contracts. Anyone can access this private vaccine supply.

While the Public Health Agency of Canada is committed to assisting the US with its flu vaccine shortage, at this point in time, it seems unlikely that there will be any surplus available from the public vaccine supply. We will continue to work closely with the provinces, territories and Public Works and Government Services Canada to monitor the public supply in Canada.

To date, flu activity this season has been relatively low. Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario are reporting sporadic and localized activity. This is within the range of activity that is expected this time of year. Based on laboratory tests completed so far, the flu vaccine is well matched to the flu viruses currently circulating. The majority of laboratory confirmed influenza tests are the A/Fujian strain.

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