Toronto pharmacist Kyro Maseh faced a difficult task on Tuesday. He had to throw away 330 doses of Moderna’s vaccine that had expired before he could get enough people to sign up for a shot.
“It is a sin to be rid of,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen. It hurts.”
In the early days of Canada’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, the main obstacle was getting enough vaccines to meet demand. But now that the majority of Canadians have received their doses, pharmacists and health care providers face a new challenge: getting enough people to sign up for a dose before their available supply runs out.
“It’s a completely different situation now,” said Regina infectious disease doctor Dr. Alexander Wong, whose clinic dumped eight expired doses of Moderna last week.
“Now we are dealing with everyone who remains – [those with] Questions, [the] I hesitated… It would take out-of-the-box thinking to better engage these people.”
eighty percent Of Canadians eligible for vaccination received at least one dose, nearly 64 percent of them were fully vaccinated. That still leaves more than 6.5 million people yet to receive a single injection – at a time when COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Canada.
In the past two months, Canada has received millions of moderna doses from the United States, but not all of them will be used before their expiration date.
The Ontario Pharmacists Association said that pharmacists in the province will likely have to dispose of thousands of expired doses of Moderna over the course of this week and the following week due to reduced demand.
Moderna vials can be stored in the freezer for up to six months. But they arrive defrosted in drugstores, and can only last in the refrigerator for 30 days, said association CEO Justin Bates. Once the vial is punctured to withdraw a dose, the remaining doses – usually around 13 – expire in 24 hours.
Another hitch, Bates said, is that some people who got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first shot refuse to get Moderna for their second dose, because they some countries – Including the United States – Do not recognize people who have received mixed doses of full vaccinations.
“There is still a lot of indecision regarding Moderna, and confusion in general, which has led to the potential for waste,” he said.
Bates said Ontario pharmacists are doing their best to use expired Moderna doses, including sending some to high-demand pharmacies and educating customers about the benefits of vaccination.
“No health care provider wants to be put in this situation where they have to consider getting rid of vaccines,” Bates said. “It’s a terrible situation to be in and we’ve done everything we can to avoid waste.”
Middlesex-London Health Ontario Unit (MLHU) is also working to avoid overdosing. It has about 15,000 doses of Moderna that expire on August 12 – just six days.
MLHU says it received a large shipment from Moderna in July, but didn’t have enough room to store it in the freezer. Because demand was high at the time, the health unit expected that vaccines would be up and running quickly.
Now that demand has waned, MLHU hopes to garner interest by accepting visits and setting up pop-up clinics.
“We are now doing everything we can to make vaccination as simple and accessible as possible,” said Dr. Chris Mackey, MLHU’s medical officer for health.
What about donating doses?
Massa, a Toronto pharmacist, said he would like to see Canada donate unwanted doses to developing countries that need them urgently.
“They were just [going to] He said, “Throw this in the trash while the others die. It’s not fair.”
But shipping vaccine doses that will soon expire to other countries poses its own challenges due to their limited shelf life.
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Global Affairs Canada, which is involved in the vaccination effort, told CBC News that it is aware that a “small number” of vaccine doses in Canada will expire soon and said it may not be possible to redistribute them.
However, the federal administration said Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine waste rate is low — at a rate of less than 1 percent.
“Careful planning, training and sharing of best practices across provinces and territories have helped reduce avoidable waste,” company spokeswoman Ciara Trudeau said in an email. “Canada is determined to use our vaccine supplies efficiently and effectively.”
How about a third dose?
News of the vaccine not being used has led some Canadians who received different vaccines for their first and second doses to question why they could not get the third vaccine, since some countries refused to recognize mixed doses as a full vaccination.
“Why did he let these potions go to waste?” said Louise Jacob of Ottawa, who got a combination of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.
Jacob booked a Caribbean cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line departing from Florida in January. She said she would have to cancel in early October – when full payment is due – if the cruise line continues its policy Refuse to identify people who have received mixed doses of full vaccinations.
To allay those concerns, Jacob said she’s willing to sign up for a third dose of Moderna if no one wants to.
“Why doesn’t the government give it to people like me?” She asked.
Last month , Quebec government She said she offers a third dose of vaccine to people who have a planned essential trip to a country that does not recognize their vaccination status.
The Ontario government has said it has no plans to follow suit, nor is it recommending the federal government take a third shot at this time.
“We don’t really know the exact effect of adding another dose,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news conference on Thursday.