Vaccine delays, shortages possible across Canada as flu season approaches

Medicine Shoppe pharmacist Jason Hoeppner was gearing up to hold his annual flu clinic in a few weeks.

But now he’s looking at cancelling it, after the province of Manitoba notified him Wednesday there will be delays, and possibly shortages, in getting this year’s flu vaccine out to providers.

That’s a concern for Hoeppner.

“We do see a lot of high-risk groups here” at his Winnipeg pharmacy, he said.

“Seniors, younger kids, anyone with chronic conditions — they are in those high-risk groups, so we want to make sure they get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

He says it takes about 10 to 14 days after getting the vaccine for people to build immunity. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated before the flu season begins, he said, which is usually in January.

Pharmacist Jason Hoeppner is looking at cancelling a flu clinic he had planned for Oct. 22 after learning there is a delay in getting flu vaccines. (John Einarson/CBC)

A provincial spokesperson said there are delays across the country.

“The manufacturers that supply vaccines across all Canadian jurisdictions are experiencing shortages and delivery delays,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says about 55 per cent of the total flu vaccine order is currently available to distribute across the country, and it’s hoping to have 90 per cent of the supply by the end of this month.

That’s also a concern to Hoeppner.  

“It sounds like there is maybe a bit flu activity right now, so we’d like to get started as soon as possible as we could with this.”

In the meantime, Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen says the province is working to ensure nursing homes and other high-priority areas get the vaccine.

Manitoba Health says people can minimize the risk of getting or spreading the flu virus by shielding their coughs and sneezes, washing their hands often and staying home when they are sick.

The province said it will post updates on the availability of the flu shot on its website.

“Keep checking with whoever it is you typically get your vaccine with — your pharmacy, your doctor’s office — about availability,” Hoeppner recommends.

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