Northwestern Health Unit advises on shortage of Hepatitis A, B and rabies vaccines

The Northwestern Health Unit is advising people that certain vaccines will be in short supply over the coming months.

National shortage of these vaccines continues

The Northwestern Health Unit is advising people about a shortage of hepatitis A and B, and rabies vaccines. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

The Northwestern Health Unit is advising people that certain vaccines will be in short supply over the coming months.

The national shortage affects vaccines for hepatitis A and B, as well as rabies, said Donna Stanley, the health unit's manager of infection disease.

"The shortage affects vaccines that people would purchase, so not the publicly-funded ones that they can get through health units or healthcare providers," she said, adding the vaccines in questions are also all intended for prevention.

"So, the vaccines that people would get before they would travel, or before they take veterinary course or a nursing course or a police course," she said. "If it's a post-exposure situation, there is vaccine stock for that. So if somebody has had a needle stick injury or an animal bite, we have vaccine for that."

Behaviour-based risk

The hepatitis A and B vaccines are expected to remain in short supply until December, Stanley said.

There are two rabies vaccines, each made by a different company, affected by the shortage. One of the shortages was expected to be over last week, while the second will likely remain in place until the end of June 2019.

"These are behaviour-based kinds of risks," Stanley said. "We always want to recommend people look into vaccines as an extra preventative step, but one of the first steps of prevention is always knowing how things transmit, and protecting yourself."

Specific cause unknown

Stanley didn't know the specific reasons for these shortages, but said generally, vaccine shortages can occur for a few reasons.

"Manufacturing plants may have, say, a quality concern with a certain batch of vaccine, and so that batch of vaccine might just not be made available to the public," she said. "That can affect a big batch, and then that can also result in a shortage."

"We also know that there has been some increased uptake of hepatitis A and B vaccines, which has potentially taken up some of the surplus that would've been available through the system."