TORONTO - The federal government is drawing on the national stockpile of the flu drug Tamiflu to relieve a shortage in the country.
The move comes as many locations across Canada report they are in the throes of an active flu season.
Dr. Barbara Raymond, director of pandemic preparedness for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said the move followed discussions between the agency and the drug's manufacturer, Roche Canada.
Higher-than-expected demand for the drug left the company suspecting it might not be able to fill its orders, so the Public Health Agency agreed to release some of its Tamiflu stock, Raymond said.
"That really unexpected increase in demand — far above other influenza seasons — has really depleted the usual stocks which in any other season would have been more than sufficient," she said in an interview from Ottawa.
"Given that we are still in the midst of influenza season and given that we certainly do not want to have any kind of supply disruption at this point in time, the Public Health Agency Canada ... has elected to work with Roche to ensure that there will be no supply disruption."
The stockpiled supplies will be released to Roche, which in turn will distribute the drug to where it is needed across the country. The company will replenish the national stockpile when it gets a new shipment, likely next month.
Raymond said the amount of stockpiled drug to be released to Roche hasn't yet been finalized. But she said the government is confident that taking this move will not jeopardize Canada's pandemic preparedness position.
Raymond said the flu season so far has been brisk, with many hospital and long-term care facility outbreaks reported.
Myth: The Flu Shot Makes You Sick
The flu shot can give you a sore arm and aches. Each year’s vaccine is only designed to protect against the strains it includes. Fever occurs infrequently after vaccination, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Myth: I Have To Get A Needle
A nasal spray version of the vaccine is approved for use in Canada. Provincial health plans may not cover the cost.
Myth: Flu Vaccines Don't Work
A review of studies from 1967 to 2012 concluded that standard injectable influenza vaccines containing three strains protect healthy adults aged 18 to 64 at a rate of about 59 per cent. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota and the report's lead author. "During some influenza seasons vaccination offers substantially more protection for most of the population than being unvaccinated; however, influenza vaccine protection is markedly lower than for most routinely recommended vaccines and is suboptimal," the report concluded.
Myth: Only Doctors And Nurses Can Give Vaccinations
Pharmacists in four provinces — British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick, can give flu shots. Official regulations for pharmacists are pending in Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia, said Jeff Morrison of the Canadian Pharmacists Association. Matthews said that by expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists gives people more options to get immunized, such as coming in for a flu shot during their lunch break.
Pregnant Women Can't Be Vaccinated
Getting immunized during pregnancy protects women and infants for the first six months of life when they can't be vaccinated, Dr. Scott Halperin, head of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology in Halifax, said in an interview. If you are pregnant (or planning to get pregnant) it is safe to get immunized with the inactivated influenza vaccine, Alberta Health Services says.