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Canada purchases additional 145,000 flu shots

Canadian Press

Toronto — Canada has bought an extra 145,000 doses of flu vaccine and is negotiating with a foreign supplier to import more if this season's high demand continues to challenge supplies.

Dr. David Butler-Jones, the country's chief public health officer, announced Friday that the unnamed foreign manufacturer's product currently isn't licensed in Canada, but a way might be found to import it if demand outstrips supply.

“If it looks like we're going to need it, then we could look at figuring out the licensing,” he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, health officials in British Columbia asked all but the highest risk people to step to the back of the line to ensure that those who need a shot the most will get one.

“There are unpredictable events that can happen and we want to make sure that our highest at risk are protected before that,” explained influenza expert Dr. Danuta Skowronski of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Saskatchewan, which normally allows healthy individuals to buy a flu shot from the provincial supply, took similar action earlier this week. It asked regional health authorities to only administer flu shots to high-risk individuals until it's clear the province isn't going to run out of vaccine.

What appeared just a couple of weeks ago to be a more than adequate supply of vaccine may in fact fall short in a number of parts of the country, though Butler-Jones said he still believes a shortfall can be avoided.

“There may be a mismatch in some provinces, but overall I think we're OK or close, at least,” he said.

“The additional doses that we've acquired are going to go to those provinces that are experiencing the most challenge at the moment.”

He said officials of the public health agency, the provinces and territories have taken part in conference calls almost daily as they try to assess if there is enough vaccine and if it's in the places that need it the most.

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