Canada will donate five million doses of H1N1 vaccine to the World Health Organization as demand drops off among Canadians and flu activity slows down in the country.
The federal government said Thursday that the donation will help the Geneva-based international body in its efforts to redistribute the vaccine to developing countries that couldn't afford their own supplies. The donation amounts of 10 per cent of the Canada's total vaccine order and is in line with that of other developed countries, the government said.
"We are fortunate to be in a position to contribute H1N1 flu vaccine to the WHO to help developing countries now that we have met Canada's immediate needs," Canada's Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, said in a statement.
Until today's announcement, the federal government has remained mum on what it would do with its excess supply despite repeated questions from reporters. Other countries, including Germany and Spain, had already announced plans to sell or donate their excess vaccine or scale back their orders.
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.
Also, appetite for the vaccine has plummeted since December as the second wave of the H1N1 virus has passed. Roughly 45 per cent of Canadians have been vaccinated.
Even after this donation to the WHO, Canada will be left with tens of millions of unclaimed doses. The federal government could choose to donate more down the line, or it can keep some of the remaining vaccine in reserve in case the virus returns. The vaccine has a shelf life of 18 months.
While there's talk of a third wave of the swine flu virus, some medical experts remain skeptical.
But with flu viruses being so unpredictable, David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said Thursday that it's too early to say H1N1 is no longer a threat.
"We are continuing to encourage Canadians who have not yet been vaccinated to do so - not only because the H1N1 flu virus is still circulating in some communities, but also because getting vaccinated today will provide individuals with a strong base of protection in the event of a third H1N1 flu virus wave or if the virus drifts," Dr. Butler-Jones said.Report Typo/Error