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Drug, vaccine shortages likely to continue, warns N.S. pharmacy association

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An ongoing shortage of common drugs and vaccines is likely to continue and will possibly worsen, warns the head of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.

Over the last few months, health providers across the country have been left scrambling to deal with supply gaps in blood pressure medications, antidepressants and vaccines for travellers. 

« It’s a sense of helplessness, » said Curtis Chafe, a pharmacist and the chair of the provincial association.

He said the shortage is the worst he’s seen in a career spanning nearly two decades.

« You want to make the patient healthy and look after them, but your hands are tied in the most part. »

According to a survey conducted last fall for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, one in four adults in the country has either personally been affected by a shortage in the last three years or knows someone who has. 

In the past, pharmacists would have trouble getting lesser-known drugs, said Chafe. Now it’s more commonly used medications that are off the shelves, including those that contain valsartan to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.

In that case, certain valsartan products were recalled last year because of a contaminant in the manufacturing process.

Nova Scotia’s International Travel Clinic has been rationing yellow fever vaccines since last summer, dividing what is typically one dose into as many as five. (Robert Short/CBC)

But often, the cause of the shortage is unknown. The lack of answers frustrates front-line workers like Chafe.

« The thing is, there’s not very much transparency when it comes to drug shortages, » he said.

« We have to do a little detective work and even then we don’t know what the root cause is. We don’t know whether or not it’s a quality assurance issue with the raw material … we don’t know if a factory failed an inspection. We don’t know if there was any kind of disaster or flood in the factory. »

The common antidepressant Wellbutrin is also hard to find across the country. And last year, people with severe allergies were left scrambling during an EpiPen shortage.

Travellers are being advised to plan ahead when it comes to getting their vaccines, as Nova Scotia’s International Travel Clinic has faced many shortages. (Robert Short/CBC)

At the International Travel Clinic in Dartmouth, Public Health officials are grappling with a shortage of the vaccines for yellow fever and hepatitis B. The clinic offers consultations and vaccines for people traveling outside of the country.

Its shelves of the common hepatitis A and B vaccine Twinrix have just been restocked, and the shots are being used « judiciously, » said Cara-Leah Hmidan, health protection manager for Public Health.

The clinic, which has seen people come from across the Atlantic region seeking shots, is warning would-be travellers not to wait until the last minute to get vaccinated. 

« We had one client from Newfoundland who is travelling to a high-risk area, » said Hmidan. 

The clinic has been rationing doses of its yellow fever vaccine since last summer because of production issues. That means one vial is now being shared between three to five people who receive it at the same time, said Hmidan.

Cara-Leah Hmidan says people have travelled from Newfoundland and New Brunswick to the travel clinic in Dartmouth in search of hard-to-find vaccines. (Robert Short/CBC)

« There are some logistics around that, » she said. « We have somebody co-ordinating that behind the scenes so we don’t waste anything. »

The change of dose means instead of being protected for life, travellers are now protected for just a year.

While the clinic is facing shortages, Hmidan said there is enough hepatitis B vaccine available for the province’s school immunization program.

Chafe said he doesn’t want people to stress or panic about the shortages. Health professionals will do everything possible to find suitable alternatives, he said.

« We can work to get your blood pressure covered, which is the important thing — not necessarily that you’re on a specific chemical, and work to make sure that you’re not at risk for having bad outcomes, » he said.



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A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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