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article imageHealth Canada says H1N1 vaccine on track for early November

By Stephanie Dearing     Oct 14, 2009 in Health
Health Canada said the H1N1 vaccine was on time for an early November roll out. However, parts of Canada are already dealing with the flu strain, and testing of Canada's vaccine still has not been completed.
The vaccine is just being tested now, and has yet to be approved for use, said the Chief Public Health Officer. Dr. David Butler-Jones and Leona Aglukkaq held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to make the announcement that clinical trials of the vaccine are beginning this week. Trials had been announced to take place in August. There has been no explanation for the delays in the testing of the vaccine. Last week, CTV reported "Canadian scientists still have yet to begin testing the Canadian vaccine. When testing does begin, scientists say it will take at least six to seven weeks to collect data on Canadian test subjects, giving them results in late November, or more likely December."
While Health Canada ordered over 50 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, 1 million doses will be ready to go in November, said Aglukkaq and Butler-Jones. Those vaccines will go to those who have been identified as being at higher risk. The doses will go out in early November, despite clinical testing not having been completed. Aglukkaq and Butler-Jones said they are reviewing clinical studies from Europe, with some testing to be completed in Canada.
Except for 1.8 million doses, all of Canada's H1N1 vaccine doses will be boosted with an unspecified adjuvant, which is a substance used to make a vaccine more effective. The vaccines without the booster will go to pregnant women. Canada's H1N1 vaccines are being made by GlaxoSmithKline at its labs in Quebec.
New research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on October 13 demonstrates that early vaccination with the H1N1 vaccine helps to prevent outbreaks. The research used a simulation model and results showed "delays in vaccination of 30 days or more reduced the effectiveness of vaccination in lowering the attack rate. However, pre-existing immunity in 15% or more of the population kept the attack rates low, even if the whole population was not vaccinated or vaccination was delayed. School closure was effective in reducing the attack rate, especially if applied early in the outbreak, but this is not necessary if vaccine is available early or if pre-existing immunity is strong."
The scientists advised that "Early action, especially rapid vaccine deployment is disproportionately effective in reducing the attack rate. This finding is particularly important given the early appearance of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in many schools in September 2009."
Seven people in British Columbia have died from the H1N1 outbreak that started up in September in that province. B.C. Officials say that there have been 78 severe cases this season, requiring hospitalization.
Manitoba, which saw a severe outbreak of the flu earlier this year, has not reported any new cases since October 5th. Seven people have died in Manitoba from the H1N1 virus.
GlaxoSmithKline is also supplying the United States with an H1N1 vaccine, with distribution starting October 5. Demand for the vaccine in the United States is so strong that there have been 'spot shortages' reported. The United States is not using vaccines with adjuvants.
There has been no explanation from Health Canada about why Canada has to wait longer to receive the vaccinations, particularly when the same company is also supplying the United States, and has already completed clinical studies.
Health Canada has received criticism for the late release of the vaccine, but Leona Aglukkaq has insisted that the release is on schedule.
More about H1n1 vaccine, H1n1, Swine flu, Health canada, Vaccine
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