TORONTO -- Canada is following the lead of several European countries and suspending distribution of flu vaccines made by Novartis.
The decision relates to the discovery by the company of tiny clumps of virus particles in some batches of flu vaccines made at its facility in Italy.
Health Canada, which announced the move, said Novartis has agreed to suspend distribution of its vaccines -- sold in Canada as Fluad and Agriflu -- while the department investigates. All the Novartis vaccines Canada purchases is made at the Italian plant.
The department is also telling doctors and others who administer flu shots to hold off using Novartis for now.
"We think it's prudent, given the response of certain European countries to... request of Novartis -- and they will be complying -- to stop distributing and then to recommend to practitioners to refrain from using the (Novartis) vaccine just until this review is completed," Dr. Paul Gully, senior medical adviser for Health Canada, said Friday.
Italy, Germany and Switzerland have suspended distribution of some Novartis flu vaccines, and in the case of Germany recalled some lots of vaccine, after the clumping issue came to light.
In a statement, Novartis said more than one million doses of its flu vaccines have been administered in Europe so far this season and no unexpected adverse events have been reported.
As well, it said it has already delivered about 70 per cent of its Canadian order (1.5 million doses), again without hearing of problems in people who have received Novartis flu shots. The company said people who have received Novartis flu shots are not at risk.
Novartis said finding minute clumps of virus protein in vaccines is not unusual. They said their vaccines passed quality inspections and they are confident the products are safe.
-- The Canadian Press