More than one million doses of the H1N1 pandemic vaccine have been shipped to provinces and territories, and Health Canada is expected to approve the drug as early as this week.
A source told The Globe and Mail last night that the amount of doses being shipped will continue to increase this week, as Canada's vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline produces more vaccine at its plant in Ste-Foy, Que. The federal government has ordered 50 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine from GSK for all Canadians who need and want it.
Federal health officials have said the vaccine will be rolled out to Canadians in the first week of November. But David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public-health officer, has hinted that Canadians could be offered the H1N1 vaccine at the end of October if Health Canada moves through the regulatory hurdles quickly.
If the regulatory body approves the vaccine this week, some jurisdictions could be offering it a lot sooner than was once anticipated. The delivery of the H1N1 vaccine to Canadians will also largely depend on the ability of provinces and territories to smoothly move from administering seasonal flu shots to the pandemic vaccine. Some health experts feared that the late rollout in Canada would come just as the virus started peaking - and that the vaccine would do little to save those groups most vulnerable to the influenza pandemic, including pregnant women. Places like British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Ontario have seen an increase in H1N1 cases.
While other countries are rolling out non-adjuvant vaccine, Canada has decided to fortify its vaccine with adjuvants, which are chemical boosters that can increase production.
Adjuvants are in many common vaccines in Canada, but have not previously been approved for influenza vaccines.
But components of the vaccine have been proven to be safe: The adjuvant has been tested on thousands with the H5N1 avian flu drug, and the antigen has been tested in other trials in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Canada has ordered just over a million doses of unadjuvated vaccine for pregnant women and young children, because there is not enough clinical data on the adjuvant for these groups.
Some provincial medical officers of health have said there could be a week or two delay in the rollout of the unadjuvanted vaccine.