Ottawa Public Health runs out of high-dose flu vaccine for seniors; other vaccines still available

OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health says it has run out of a particular type of flu vaccine intended for seniors, though the city’s medical officer of health stresses that other vaccines remain available.

In a memo to Mayor Jim Watson and members of council, Dr. Vera Etches said Tuesday that OPH has distributed all of its doses of the high-dose trivalent vaccine (HD-TIV) for people 65 and older and they do not expect to be getting any more.

“The Ministry of Health has also informed Ottawa Public Health (OPH) that Ontario has received 100% of its order for the high-dose trivalent inactivated vaccine for older adults and that all of the doses have been distributed by the Ontario Government Pharmaceutical and Medical Supply Service (OGPMSS). No additional doses of the high-dose trivalent vaccine are anticipated to be provided to OPH or other health units in Ontario at this time,” Dr. Etches said. “As a result, OPH is not able to fill any more order requests from local physicians for the high-dose vaccine and the HD-TIV will no longer be available in our community influenza immunization clinics.”

Dr. Etches said some pharmacies or doctor’s offices may still have doses of this particular vaccine in stock and anyone looking to get it should call ahead and ask.

However, she also stressed that other flu vaccines remain available and that people should not delay getting immunized.

“For your awareness, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has stated that there is insufficient evidence to make a preferential recommendation between (the high-dose tivalen vaccine) and (the quadrivalent vaccine) for people 65 years and older. Both vaccines are effective and recommended for seniors. The most important thing is for seniors to get the vaccine that is available in their location without delay,” Dr. Etches said.

Dr. Etches added that as long as the weekly provincial shipment of the quadrivalent vaccine (QIV) continues without interruption, OPH clinics will remain open.

Demand for the flu vaccine has been high this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the difference?

There are two different kinds of flu vaccines that OPH distributes, the high-dose trivalent influenza vaccine (HD-TIV) and the quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV).

According to OPH’s website, the HD-TIV is intended for people 65 and over and covers three strains of the flu: two influenza A viruses (A/H1N1 and A/H3N2) and one influenza B virus (B/Washington).

OPH says your doctor can help you choose between the quadrivalent influenza vaccine and the high-dose trivalent vaccine.

The QIV can be given to anyone 6 months of age or older.

It covers four influenza strains: two influenza A viruses (A/H1N1 and A/H3N2) and two influenza B viruses (B/Washington and B/Phuket).

Babies and children 6 months to under 9 years of age who have never had a flu shot will need two doses of the vaccine, given at least 4 weeks apart. Everyone else will need only one dose.

The reason the HD-TIV is recommended for adults 65 or older is because the burden of the H2N3 strain of influenza A is greater on older adults. Influenza B occurs less frequently in people 65 and older.

“Seasons with circulation of influenza A(H3N2) result in more outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths, most commonly among older adults,” Public Health Ontario said in a recent fact sheet.

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