The federal government is acknowledging what some doctors have been warning against: the country has a shortage of Tamiflu, an antiviral medication often given to those with severe cases of the flu.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada announced Tuesday they are arranging to immediately release a supply of the drug from the country’s National Emergency Stockpile System.

It will then be sent to the manufacturer, Roche Canada, for distribution to where it is needed across Canada, the agency says.

“This exceptional action will be taken to ensure Tamiflu remains available to those Canadians who need it until the manufacturer replenishes its supply with a new shipment expected in February,” PHAC said in a news release.

The Tamiflu shortage comes as Canada sees one of its earliest spikes in flu cases in years. This year’s flu is also causing more severe illness than other flu strains seen in the last two years.

In a statement, Roche Canada said the “unexpectedly severe” flu season has led to “greater than normal demand” for Tamiflu.

The company said it ordered additional units of the antiviral medication as soon as early reports showed an increase in flu cases last month. It said it’s “actively working to address the needs of priority patient populations, specifically hospitals and nursing homes with a confirmed outbreak.”

Tamiflu, known also by its drug name oseltamivir, is an antiviral medication used for the early treatment of influenza – particularly in those at high risk of flu complications, such as the elderly, young children, individuals with other medical conditions or pregnant women.

It should not be confused with the seasonal flu vaccine, which Health Canada says remains the best protection against the flu virus.

PHAC reminds Canadians that it’s not too late to get the flu shot and that this year’s vaccine matches the circulating influenza strains very well.