You keep it on you at all times, but hope you never have to use it.

It’s back-to-school season, and along with school supplies and lunch boxes, some parents will also need to pack an EpiPen for their child. 

Pfizer Canada informed Health Canada in July 2018 that a manufacturing issue was to blame for a shortage of its 0.3 milligram EpiPens. In an emailed statement to CTV News, Health Canada said that according to Pfizer, the shortage is anticipated to end by Oct. 4, 2019.

Pfizer Canada added that the “product is still routinely shipping to Canada”. Health Canada said there should be an adequate supply of EpiPens for Canadians, but will “not hesitate to facilitate the import of additional international supply if needed.”

Like many parents, this time of year is stressful for Nicole Gonzalez. It’s back-to-school season, and her young daughter has a life-threatening allergy.

“It’s a little nerve racking, we made it through kindergarten,” said Gonzalez. “You can never let your guard down.”

About 2.5 million Canadians live with anaphylaxis, and 3,500 people put year experience anaphylactic shock after coming in contact with an allergen. About a dozen of those people will die. 

“The Epipen, I fill it when I can, it’s a 50-50 shot when I go to the pharmacy if they have them. There’s just such a shortage,” said Gonzalez.

In the meantime, what are your options?

“There are actually a lot of new options when shopping for an epinephrine injector and in fact, some might be more easily available or less expensive than a traditional EpiPens,” said Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports’ health and medicine investigative reporter. 

Auvi-Q is an epinephrine auto-injector produced by pharmaceutical company Kaléo. It was brought in from the US under an interim order by Health Canada in the wake of the shortage. It has an electronic voice instruction system that can walk a patient through the injection process and features a retractable needle. It retails in Canada for about $170. 

“Given that inventory of EpiPen’s and other epinephrine injectors is so spotty, give yourself greater flexibility by asking your healthcare provider for a prescription that doesn’t specify a brand name. And that way your pharmacist can give you whatever is on hand,” said Gill.

Experts say to call ahead to make sure your pharmacy has the epinephrine injector you want in stock. They also recommend asking your doctor or pharmacist for help training with your new device in order to avoid potentially fatal mistakes or injuries. 

The shortage does not affect the 0.15 milligram EpiPen Jr. 

“You need it, and you need several of them,” said Gonzalez. 

In British Columbia, EpiPen’s are not covered under MSP and retail for approximately $120, depending on the pharmacy. 

If patients are concerned about EpiPen shortages, Health Canada recommends vising or contacting Pfizer directly. They can also speak with their healthcare professional.