All public influenza immunization clinics in Saskatchewan, including those throughout the Sunrise Health Region, are on hold until further notice.
The provincial decision follows a Health Canada recommendation flu vaccine made by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis not be used pending a review of the discovery of clumping of particles in the vaccine in Europe.
“Locally we did not have any clinics planned during the weekend,” said Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, Medical Health Officer for Sunrise Health Region. He added four clinics in the region were cancelled Monday, and four more Tuesday.
How long the clinics may be suspended was pending Monday on a review being undertaken at the federal and provincial levels.
“There’s a teleconference this afternoon (Monday),” said Nsungu. He said at that time they would be hearing from the provincial ministry “on the situation, how far the review has gone.”
Nsungu confirmed the two types of vaccine being used across the province are from the Novartis firm. They are purchased by the provincial ministry and distributed to the health regions.
“A lot of people have already received the vaccine,” he said, noting clinics started Oct. 9 in the SHR. “… People already receiving the vaccine should not be unduly concerned,” he added.
The clumping issue seen in Europe has not been noted in Canada, said Nsungu,
“We did not see unusual side effects of the vaccine,” he added.
That said, the temporary suspension of clinics is one Nsungu was something “only prudent to do,” pending further investigation by Health Canada.
It was a view echoed in a provincial release.
The Public Health Agency of Canada indicates it has received no reports of unexpected adverse events related to these vaccines.
“People who have had the influenza vaccine should not be unduly concerned,” Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said in the release. “We are taking a precautionary measure while this review is underway. Influenza vaccine is an effective way to stay healthy during the flu season. Our program will resume once the Health Canada review is completed.”
Nsungu said ultimately vaccination for influenza “is an effective way of preventing flu.” He said it not only protects the inoculated individual but those immunized “break the chain of transmission of the influenza virus.”
More information is also available from Health Canada at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2012/2012_162-eng.php