Canada is currently in the midst of a nationwide travel vaccine shortage.
According to drugshortagescanada.ca, Canada's mandatory drug shortage and discontinuation reporting website, commonly-requested travel vaccinations like Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (TWINRIX), as well as the Yellow fever vaccine, are in short supply.
Why do vaccine shortages happen?
While most vaccine shortages can be attributed to supply chain disruptions in the manufacturing process, sometimes it's as simple as increased or unexpected demand.
With winter on the way, many Canadians are on the move in search of warmer weather. While some travel vaccinations are taken as precautionary measures, others are mandatory country requirements, and travellers who have not been vaccinated in those cases are denied entry to the destination. This factor, and many others, is something Health Canada is aware of, and actively monitoring.
"Health Canada recognizes the importance of vaccines and the impact that supply disruptions can have on many Canadians and the healthcare system," said Rebecca Purdy, media relations advisor, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, in an interview with PAX. "Addressing drug shortages is a multi-stakeholder responsibility requiring collaborative action from provinces and territories, manufacturers, distributors, practitioners and the federal government. Health Canada is working with the companies, provincial and territorial authorities, and stakeholders across the healthcare system to monitor this situation and to take action, as needed, to help mitigate the impact on Canadians."
Which vaccines are running low?
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the popular dual-dose Hepatitis A and B vaccine, TWINRIX, has advised Health Canada that it is experiencing national and global supply constraints for several hepatitis vaccines due to manufacturing issues and increased global demand for these products.
As of Nov. 5, 2018, GSK is reporting shortages of the following vaccines:
- Twinrix (hepatitis A and hepatitis B combination vaccine) – anticipated shortage end date unknown
- Twinrix Jr (hepatitis A and hepatitis B combination vaccine) – anticipated shortage end date unknown
- Engerix-B (hepatitis B vaccine) – anticipated shortage end date unknown
- Engerix-B – pediatric dose (hepatitis B vaccine) – anticipated shortage end date unknown
- Havrix (hepatitis A vaccine) – anticipated shortage end date December 31, 2018
- Havrix Jr (hepatitis A vaccine) – anticipated shortage end date December 31, 2018
Sanofi Pasteur LTD, one of four global producers of the yellow fever vaccine, has advised that it is experiencing national supply constraints for yellow fever vaccines due to manufacturing issues. Supply disruptions are anticipated only in the private market. No disruption to publicly funded immunization programs is expected.
Countries requiring the Yellow Fever vaccine
According to a statement on the Government of Canada's website, because of the national shortage on Yellow fever vaccines, travellers heading to countries at risk of the virus should contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
Yellow Fever is prominently found in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America, as well as parts of Central America and the Caribbean.
The World Health Organization (WHO) profiles a country list of Yellow Fever vaccination requirements and recommendations here.
Yellow Fever vaccinations should be administered at least 10 days prior to travelling.
"It is important to note that not all reported shortages have the same potential impact on Canadians. Health Canada prioritizes shortages that have a greater impact on Canadians," Purdy said. "The Department considers factors such as whether the shortage is national in scope, whether alternative supplies are available, and whether the product is considered medically necessary, in order to determine the potential impact and any necessary actions by Health Canada."
Protect yourself: be prepared
Canadians are advised to speak to their healthcare professional if they have concerns about their specific vaccine needs.
Not all vaccinations are mandatory, and every traveller should consult with a healthcare practitioner to determine what vaccines are required for a specific trip.
For more information on travel vaccines, click here.
To monitor up-to-date information about supply, click here.