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Canada's Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq receives her H1N1 flu shot from Claire Bahati at a clinic in Ottawa November 27, 2009. (BLAIR GABLE)
Canada's Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq receives her H1N1 flu shot from Claire Bahati at a clinic in Ottawa November 27, 2009. (BLAIR GABLE)

Canada lending H1N1 vaccine to Mexico Add to ...

Canada is lending, not donating, five million doses of the H1N1 vaccine to Mexico - and the federal government remains mum on what it will do with its expected surplus of the pandemic drug.

As demand for the H1N1 shot drops and flu activity slows down, the country will be left with tens of millions of unclaimed doses. But even as other countries, such as Germany and Spain, look to sell their excess vaccine or scale back their orders, the federal government has kept a tight lid on its plans.

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"We are reviewing our options to deal with any potential remaining H1N1 vaccine," said Tim Vail, spokesman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, adding that the government hopes to announce its decision shortly.

In the meantime, the government said yesterday that it will ship five million doses this week to Mexico, where the pandemic first surfaced. Manufacturers will only deliver the bulk of that country's order at the end of this month. Mexico will replenish Canada's supply by the end of March.

"Canada currently has enough H1N1 vaccine on hand to meet the needs of every Canadian who may need or want to be immunized and can accommodate this request," Mr. Vail said in an e-mail.

The federal government ordered 50.4 million doses from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline when it was believed that each person needed two shots to be protected. But subsequent clinical trials determined only one dose would be needed to provide immunity.

About 24 million doses of vaccine have so far been shipped to provinces and territories, and, with the second wave over, demand has been waning. Roughly 45 per cent of Canadians have been vaccinated.

The federal government could choose to donate excess vaccine to the World Heath Organization, which is helping developing countries that can't afford to buy it. It can also keep some of the remaining vaccine in reserve in case the virus returns in the winter and a high-profile death, such as that of 13-year-old Evan Frustaglio, acts as a wake-up call for Canadians to get the shot. The vaccine has a shelf life of 18 months.

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