Health Canada has lifted its suspension of the flu vaccines produced by Novartis as of Wednesday.
Here in the Interior HealthAuthority, vaccines continued as usual and only 10 per cent of vaccines used in the program were effected by the suspension. Medical health officer Dr. Trevor Corneil said the vaccine was never unsafe, but was in fact pulled from the vaccination program as a precautionary measure.
“It’s important that people who have already gotten the shot know the shots are fine,” he said.
IH actually relies more on another vaccine called Vaxigrip for their flu program, which allowed them to continue to vaccinate as usual.
Corneil said the problem arose last week when authorities in Europe noticed particulate matter was collecting in the Novartis vaccines Agriflu and Fluad. The decision was made to suspend the vaccine for an investigation into whether the clumping matter was safe or not.
“The Euopean governments said, ‘well, let’s take a precautionary approach to this,’” Corneil said. “It was completely precautionary, which was the appropriate thing to do.”
In the time between Friday, October 26 when the vaccine was suspended and Wednesday, October 31 when it was reinstated, Corneil said Health Canada did its own investigation. All evidence from Novartis trials and records of patient reactions were poured over, and no adverse reactions were found.
“No one had had any adverse reactions to that shot,” Corneil said. “There was none outside of the normal there.”
Corneil said it is not unusual to see clumping material in vaccines of any kind, and health care providers will avoid catching that matter when they draw a needle for injection. The particulates form when the components of the vaccine are combined and the needle is introduced to the vaccine fluid.
“It usually looks like little, very tiny white flakes,” he said.
The clumps are safe to inject, Corneil said, but health care providers will avoid them to keep the needle clear.
With Novartis back on the market for flue vaccines, Corneil is urging people to go get their shot, and to think of others.
“It’s not about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others,” he said.
Some people infected with the flu can have no symptoms, but can pass it on to others with weaker immune systems – but it also protects those with healthier immune systems from missing work or other engagements due to a seasonal flu.
“Getting the flu shot will keep you from passing on those three very nasty flu bugs that are going around this year.”
For more information on where to get your flu shot, visit www.interiorhealth.ca/fluclinics.