10/31/2012 10:57 EDT | Updated 12/31/2012 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan reopens flu clinics after Health Canada says Novartis vaccine safe

REGINA - Saskatchewan is reopening its flu clinics after getting the all-clear from Health Canada on the Novartis vaccine.

"Some of the larger clinics, of course, will need a day or two to ramp up because while the clinics were suspended, staff were busy doing other things," chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said Wednesday.

All flu clinics in Saskatchewan were put on hold last Friday after tiny clumps of virus particles were found in some batches of the vaccine made in Italy.

However, officials said the European batch was different than the one supplied to Canada.

Normally the viral proteins in flu vaccine are not visible to the naked eye, but from time to time they fall out of suspension and can be seen. Novartis said it is not uncommon, nor is it a sign that there is something wrong with the vaccine.

Health Canada lifted its hold on Novartis flu vaccines Wednesday, saying they are safe to use.

Novartis provides about 20 per cent of Canada's flu vaccine. However, Saskatchewan relied on Novartis for about 95 per cent of its supply, which is why all clinics had to be suspended.

Shahab estimates about 120,000 people have received the vaccine so far.

He also said the province has confidence in the immunization program and people shouldn't be apprehensive about getting the shot. He said likened the temporary hold to waiting for a plane.

"Sometimes there's a delay in a flight because of operational or technical reasons and you know you wait a couple of hours, but then you still get on the flight. And you're reassured that if there is a technical issue that it is looked at," he said.

"So you know it was an inconvenience for three or four days...but I think at the end of the day we want to emphasize that safety is our Number 1 priority."

People who have already received the vaccine do not need to be revaccinated.