Popular vaccines, needed for travel to some areas, are getting harder to come by in Canada, which could be a problem for travellers heading to certain destinations.
A vaccine to treat yellow fever, and two vaccines — one oral and one injectable — for typhoid fever are currently under “shortage” according to Drug Shortages Canada.
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“Anyone going on particular trips — either it’s a necessity for their visa or such — are having difficulty,” said Tim Brady, a drug store owner and former head of the Essex County Pharmacists Association. “We’ve had patients from Windsor having to go to London [Ont.] to get it… It’s definitely been a big issue.”
Typhoid fever is an infection that is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, according to Health Canada. It’s common in developing countries with poor sanitation. Yellow fever is a disease that is transmitted by a mosquito. It gets its name from the jaundice that occurs when the virus attacks the liver. Both can be prevented by a vaccine.
“Even once [the vaccines] are produced, they have to sit for a while until they’ve been passed clearance until they’re released,”– Tim Brady, pharmacy owner
The injectable typhoid vaccine Vivaxim has been on shortage for more than a year now. Maggie Wang Maric, Head of Communications for the drug’s distributor Sanofi Canada, told CBC News in an email that there was a “supply constraint with one of the antigens” in the drug. And that secondly, a full manufactured batch of Vivaxim was damaged in transit to Canada. Maric said the drug will be available for sale “in the first half of 2019.”
Brady explained that many drugs are manufactured at a single processing plant, and sometimes a batch of drug might be called for reissue, or there can be problems with the plant that can be reason for a delay.
“Even once [the vaccines] are produced, they have to sit for a while until they’ve been passed clearance until they’re released,” he said.
There is a shortage for the oral typhoid vaccine, called Vivotif, because of the increased demand for the drug. Brady said pharmacies are scrambling for the medication.
CBC News contacted Valneva, the company that distributes Vivotif. The company said in an email that the shortage “is expected to be resolved by December 22, 2017” and the company has “taken measures to ensure that it remains directly available to patients through clinics across the country.”
“Just in general, I probably have about 34 to 50 backordered medications,” – Tim Brady, pharmacy owner
Medications on backorder
But vaccines aren’t the only medications in Canada that there is a shortage of. Brady said he’s part of a constant “balancing act” when it comes to properly supplying medications.
“Presently in my pharmacy, just in general, I probably have about 34 to 50 backordered medications,” he said. “It’s difficult even for all the local pharmacies to supply medications for patients, because you’re running out and even switching to other brands to see what’s available. And certain plans only cover certain brands so there is a lot of issues.”
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But drug companies are accountable to the healthcare industry and the public. In March, Health Canada introduced mandatory reporting regulations which require manufacturers to publicly notify of all anticipated and actual shortages, as well as discontinuations on the Canadian Drug Shortage website.
The good news, according to Brady, is at least people are getting vaccinated. He said this year there was somewhat of a shortage for the flu vaccine, as there was such an uptake from the public to get it.
“Especially with that one if you haven’t got your shot or they didn’t have it please make sure to go get it because it is really important,” he said.
If you’re travelling
For those that require the typhoid, yellow fever, or other vaccines for travel, it’s best to contact a local healthcare provider who can help scout it out for you, said Brady.