WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada has secured 200,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine from Australia’s CSL Ltd, a move that will allow earlier than planned vaccination of pregnant women, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said on Monday.
The vaccine contains no adjuvant, a natural product that allows for more effective use of vaccine supplies, and is the type recommended for pregnant women.
Vaccination with the new vaccine should begin next week, said Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s chief public health officer.
Pregnant women are one of the groups deemed most vulnerable to H1N1 flu, but vaccine without adjuvant was not available as quickly as the vaccine for the general population. That meant pregnant women had to wait while a national immunization effort got under way this week.
“We have heard the concerns from pregnant women about having to wait for unadjuvanted vaccine,” Aglukkaq said in a news conference in Ottawa. “We felt that given the increase in cases of H1N1 flu virus across the country, it was prudent to offer pregnant women earlier access to the unadjuvanted vaccine.”
More Canadians are getting sick with the H1N1 flu, the minister said, but she gave no updated figures on deaths and hospitalizations.
CSL’s unadjuvanted vaccine has also been approved for use in Australia and the United States.
The vaccine from CSL should be enough to vaccinate all pregnant Canadian women who ask for it, Butler-Jones said. Canada has also ordered 1.8 million doses of H1N1 vaccine for pregnant women from GlaxoSmithKline PLC, but that vaccine won’t be ready as quickly.
Canada’s health department gave final approval last week to a vaccine with adjuvant produced by GlaxoSmithKline for most of the population, allowing the governments of its provinces to proceed with vaccinations.
Canada has ordered 50.4 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine for a national population of more than 33 million.
The federal government has not decided whether to share any surplus vaccine with other countries.
“It all depends on how many Canadians go out and get the vaccine,” Aglukkaq said. “It’s difficult to say how much extra we might have.”
Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Peter Galloway