Via Global News, Helen Branswell of The Canadian Press writes: The flu shot shortage: Who’s to blame? Excerpt:
Wonder why some Canadians have to scramble to find a flu shot this year? People may be tempted to blame the authorities – their provincial or territorial government – but to do so would be unfair.
If people are looking for a culprit for this year’s flu shot shortage, they should probably stand in front of a mirror.
It’s as simple as this: Canada doesn’t have more vaccine because it hasn’t used more vaccine in the past.
Flu vaccine is a made-on-demand business. The viruses it protects against change all the time, so the viruses in the vaccine must be changed too. That’s why flu vaccine is reformulated every year, and why flu shots are given annually.
That means there is no market in 2014 for vaccine left over from 2013. So the vaccine manufacturers take orders, and make only as much as countries say they want.
And once they deliver their orders, the manufacturers can’t make more. For one thing, it would take too long. The manufacturers made this winter’s vaccine over a period of weeks in the spring and summer of 2013. And for another thing, the manufacturers are now busy making vaccine for the Southern Hemisphere winter.
Canada’s flu vaccine contract requires manufacturers to make an overage – an extra five per cent, in case the country needs it. Dr. Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer for the Public Health Agency of Canada, announced on Friday that Canada’s manufacturers have been asked to provide that extra vaccine this year.
In fact, the country has found extra 245,800 doses of vaccine (the overage and some FluMist vaccine from the United States), and that vaccine is being secured. It has also identified another 360,000 doses which were made for countries that decided not to complete their purchases. Canada may try to buy all or some of that if the demand for shots continues to outstrip the supply.