Winter travelers seeking to escape the cold landing in a hot destination may be opening up to health risks as sources of hepatitis vaccines shrink across the country.
The nationwide shortage of Twinrix, a popular vaccine used to prevent both hepatitis A and B, has been reported for months by Canada's mandatory drug shortage and discontinuation website.
Becca Matthews is a pharmacist at five different pharmacies in Saskatoon and said she had to refuse customers looking for Twinrix.
"The first option is basically to call all pharmacies and see if they have any stock before the shortage," Matthews said. "That worked a little, but now (Twinrix) is all sold out."
She said that pharmacies were able to cope with the shortage using Twinrix Junior, a half dose for children. But this plan ended up failing once they were done.
"What we were doing was ordering twice the Twinrix Junior and giving people two of them," she said. "That worked for a while, but now the Twinrix Junior is late."
Depending on travel plans, experts argue that dual vaccination is not always necessary. Because hepatitis B is usually transmitted sexually, it may not be necessary to take a week-long trip to Cuba or the Dominican Republic.
Matthews said that was the other option presented to customers.
"I have also seen some patients go to their doctor and get recipes for the Havrix vaccine," she said. "Unfortunately, they are still not getting the hepatitis B vaccine, but they are covering the vaccination against hepatitis A."
A vaccine such as Havrix will protect people from water, ice and contaminated food, common forms of contracting hepatitis A abroad.
Matthews suggests that travelers be diligent and do things like drinking bottled water for the duration of the trip.
For now, pharmacists across the country are waiting for the day Twinrix will be back on the shelves.
"We do not know when this will be over," Matthews said. "As of now, our distributor basically says that the manufacturer can not provide. They do not have an availability date. "
"Unfortunately, we do not know how long this will last, but I would not be surprised if months to go are still missing."