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B.C. suspends Novartis flu vaccine as clinics continue in Alberta, Manitoba

A patient gets a shot during a flu vaccine program.


B.C. is heeding a Health Canada recommendation to suspend the use of a flu vaccine made by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued notice to all provincial health authorities advising them to stop using products sold in Canada as Agriflu and Fluad.

The precautionary measure was taken based on reports of small clumping material that was noticed in some batches of the vaccines in the Italian plant where it is produced.

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B.C.'s Ministry of Health says people who have already been vaccinated don't need to worry, as there have been no safety concerns reported in relation to the vaccines to date.

The Novartis products comprise about 30 per cent of B.C.'s provincial flu vaccine supply.

The ministry says provincial public health officials are working with other experts across Canada this weekend to figure out what steps should be taken next for public vaccination programs.

Clinics for influenza shots are continuing across much of the Prairies, even though they've been suspended in Saskatchewan due to concerns about the Novartis vaccine.

The Manitoba government says only about 1 per cent of its vaccine supply is Agriflu. It says it doesn't have any Fluad.

The Alberta government says Agriflu comprises only about 22 per cent of its total vaccine supply.

Officials in Alberta and Manitoba say they have advised health providers to stop using the affected vaccines, but that flu shots will continue with other vaccines.

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"It's important that Albertans continue to get the flu shot," said Alberta's Health Minister, Fred Horne, in a news release Saturday. "Getting the flu shot is the most effective way for everyone to prevent illness and protect families and communities."

Saskatchewan says its flu vaccination program will resume once a Health Canada review of the situation has been completed.

The company says more than one million doses of its flu vaccines have been administered in Europe so far this season and no unexpected adverse events have been reported. It says people who have received Novartis flu shots are not at risk.

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Saqib Shahab, said anyone in the province who got one of the shots shouldn't be concerned. Dr. Shahab said the decision to suspend clinics was a "precautionary measure."

Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government says the province's influenza vaccine is not affected by Ottawa's stop-use order of flu shots made by Novartis.

Nova Scotia's chief public health officer, Robert Strang, says the province's supply of the vaccine comes from other manufacturers and is safe.

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