January 4, 2018 10:55 pm
Updated: January 5, 2018 9:55 pm

Pharmacies facing shortage of hepatitis A vaccine

WATCH: Alberta Health Services says it is not experiencing a shortage of a hepatitis A vaccine even though some private clinics are struggling to meet demand. Travellers looking for the shot can pay for it at the AHS travel clinic in downtown Calgary. Gary Bobrovitz has more.


Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it has plenty of hepatitis A vaccine available while some private clinics in Calgary are struggling to meet demand.

Travellers needing a shot before taking a trip can get it for a fee at the AHS travel clinic at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre.

“They can come to our travel clinic for travel assessments and to purchase vaccine so we have hepatitis A vaccine and many other vaccines and we are not experiencing a shortage,” Dr Judy MacDonald of AHS told Global News on Thursday.

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That is in stark contrast to some private travel clinics.

It’s one of the most common vaccines recommended for travellers, but the hepatitis A shot is in short supply in some Calgary pharmacies and beyond.

“It’s a Canada-wide problem,” Polaris Travel Clinic pharmacist Jason Kmet said. “There are supply shortages in the [United] States as well.”

Many pharmacies around Calgary have completely run out or have very few vaccinations left and don’t know when they will be able to restock.

The problem is due to a supply shortage from one of the two manufacturers of the vaccine.

READ MORE: Hepatitis A clinic opens in Okotoks for those possibly exposed through donuts

According to drugshortagescanada.ca, a website under contract with Health Canada, the reason for the shortage is because of an increase in demand for the drug.

Pharmacists say the second manufacturer is now also facing issues filling orders because it can’t keep up with the increased demand.

“I think it’s been more of an issue of supply and demand because of the fact there have been… big outbreaks in the [United] States,” Kmet said. “The demand of the vaccine has shot up and as a result, it’s more of a domino effect.”

Watch below: Both manufacturers of Hepatitis A vaccine are dealing with global shortages and that means, if you’re heading south any time soon, you may need to call around.

There’s been a series of recalls in Alberta in the past few months due to hepatitis A contamination.

A Safeway bakery worker in Okotoks tested positive for the illness in December, prompting the grocery store to issue a warning to customers who purchased bulk donuts.

READ MORE: Alberta Safeway food handler found to have hepatitis A: AHS

AHS offered free clinics for anyone who may have been exposed; 67 customers rolled up their sleeves to get shots along with 56 Safeway employees.

AHS said there have been no further reports of hepatitis A from the incident.

In September, some frozen fruit products sold at a handful of grocery stores in Alberta and British Columbia were recalled due to hepatits A contamination.

READ MORE: Hepatitis A pineapple chunks recall expands to other products

AHS says it has its own supply of the vaccine and still has plenty of stock, should any further concerns of an outbreak arise in Alberta.

The Twinrix vaccine is still widely available, which protects against both hepatitis A and B. However, many Calgarians already have their hepatitis B shot, since it is now part of a provincial vaccination program in schools.

Kmet said the manufacturer told him there should be more vaccines available in about three weeks.

Hepatitis A is a virus-caused infection of the liver. It is spread through the fecal-oral route and individuals typically contract it through direct contact with an infected person.

People can also contract hepatitis A by consuming food or water that’s been contaminated.

A hepatitis A vaccine can prevent an infection if it’s given within 14 days after exposure.

Symptoms can develop between 15 and 50 days after exposure.

Those symptoms can include yellow eyes or skin, fever, nausea, stomach ache or loss of appetite.

-with files from Heide Pearson, Amy Judd and Gary Bobrovitz

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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