Nova Scotia

Travellers' vaccine Twinrix unavailable in Nova Scotia

A popular vaccine commonly used by travellers for protection against hepatitis A and hepatitis B isn't available in most pharmacies in Nova Scotia right now.

GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Twinrix, hasn't been able to supply the vaccine since Sept. 14

Canadians getting ready to vacation in the Caribbean and other southern resorts aren't able to access a vaccine commonly used to protect travellers from hepatitis A and hepatitis B. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

A popular vaccine commonly used by travellers for protection against hepatitis A and hepatitis B isn't available in most pharmacies in Nova Scotia right now.

GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Twinrix, hasn't been able to supply the vaccine since Sept. 14.

"That's the date when the manufacturer was no longer able to ship. However, some pharmacies may have had inventory after that time [depending] how much they had in stock, but right now when they place their order, they are unable to get any more," said Lisa Woodill of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nova Scotia.

GlaxoSmithKline attributes "a disruption in the manufacturing process" for the shortage.

"That could mean anything, from not able to source one of the ingredients that's required, to something to do with the equipment — we don't know any further details," Woodill said.

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline attributes "a disruption in the manufacturing process" for the shortage of Twinrix.

In an email to CBC News, the company did not pinpoint the cause of the disruption, only saying "Twinrix is in short supply due to a suspension from the vaccine manufacturing site.

"In the meantime, GSK is committed to addressing requests for medical needs.​ GSK is working diligently to minimize any supply impact to patients and to return to normal supply volumes as soon as possible."

Hepatitis A is an extremely contagious liver disease spread through direct contact with an infected person or by eating contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is a liver infection commonly spread through contact with blood, open sores or body fluids of someone who has the virus.

There's been no word from GlaxoSmithKline on when Twinrix will be available again.

It has posted some information about the shortage to a website called Drug Shortages Canada. Health Canada requires pharmaceutical companies to use the website for public notifications of anticipated and actual drug shortages, as well as discontinuations.

Few options

"It is a real challenge. There is no other vaccine," said Woodill, a pharmacist who also serves a Halifax-area travel clinic.

The only other options would be to change your trip to another area where the risk of contracting hepatitis A or B isn't as much of a consideration, or take strict food and water precautions if you decide to travel without the vaccination, she said.

She said there has been a general shortage of vaccines for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B this fall, outside of the Twinrix supply disruption.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

About the Author

Susan Bradley is a journalist in Halifax.