B.C.'s supply of flu vaccine has been reduced by 30 per cent just as the seasonal campaign to get a shot kicks off.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control issued notice to all provincial health authorities Saturday advising them to halt using the Novartis products, sold as Agriflu and Fluad in Canada.
The "precautionary" measure was taken based on the discovery of tiny clumps of virus in some batches of the vaccines at the European plant where it is produced.
Protein clumping in the past has been associated with some allergic-type reactions, but no adverse affects have been reported in Canada to date, said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s top health officer.
Interior Health's senior medical officer doesn't expect the region's flu clinics to be affected.
Dr. Andrew Larder said Novartis accounts for less than 10 per cent of the region's flu shot supplies so there won't be a shortage.
"Our immunization clinics will continue as scheduled," said Larder. "And we certainly have plenty of vaccine on hand to supply those providers. People should continue with their plans."
On Friday, Health Canada contacted health-care facilities across the country advising them to stop using the flu vaccine made by the Italian pharmaceutical firm.
But people who have already been vaccinated do not have to worry, Kendall said.
"The vaccines that have been used in B.C. have passed Health Canada's inspection systems with no concerns," said Kendall.
Larder added that from what he's heard, health officers across the nation are optimistic the issue will be resolved with the vaccine being once again available within the week.
"The sense I get is that we will be able to use this product in the future," he said. "But it all depends on what Health Canada decides and we anticipate they will make some decision around this during this week."
The Novartis products comprise about 30 per cent of B.C.'s provincial flu vaccine supply. Kendall said flu shot campaigns were launched less than two weeks ago, and will go into higher gear next week.
"I'm pretty confident that we will have sufficient vaccine available for everybody who wants it. We're certainly not likely to run out in the near future."
The ministry says provincial public health officials are working with other experts across Canada this weekend to figure out what steps should be taken next for public vaccination programs.
Health Canada is expected to have results of risks assessments being conducted by Italian and Swiss health authorities in the next week, Kendall said.
Should the product be cleared for use, the province will add the extracted vaccine back into the supply.
Flu clinics in Saskatchewan have currently been suspended over the Novartis concerns, while officials in Alberta and Manitoba are carrying forward with vaccines that are not made by the company.
Only about one per cent of Manitoba's supply is Agriflu, while the Alberta government says the same product comprises about 22 per cent of its total vaccine supply.
THE DAILY NEWS/THE CANADIAN PRESS