Windsor, Ont. Mayor Drew Dilkens, whose town sits right on the Canada-U.S. Border, said pharmacists who live in Windsor but work in the US continually give him their excess doses at the end of the day. .
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But he had to turn them all down, he said.
“We have 35,000 doses falling in the trash two kilometers from where I’m sitting right now,” Dilkens told the House of Commons health committee on Monday.
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He said the pharmacists in Windsor are “just beside themselves thinking these products are going to the landfill when there is such a demand here on our side of the border.”
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To date, Canada has vaccinated approximately 70% of its adult population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, just over seven percent of Canadians are fully immunized – while nearly half of the U.S. population has both doses of their COVID-19 vaccines.
Demand for these vaccines has started to slow in the United States, according to its recent vaccination figures. The New York Times reported that the daily injections given peaked in mid-April and have been declining since.
In Canada, meanwhile, vaccines are still a hot commodity. Canadians scramble to find their first and second dose appointments as our deployment shows a steady upward trajectory of daily doses.
This combination of factors has led to garbage in some U.S. cities, according to mayors and health care providers, and this garbage occurs just miles from Canadian cities and is teeming with citizens who gladly rolled up their sleeves earlier.
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David Musyj, president and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, told Global News the US doses were “really being thrown away.”
“What happens is that each vial of Pfizer contains approximately six doses. And then, once you pierce that vial, you have a limited number of hours – five to six hours – to use that vial, ”Musyj explained.
“If you don’t use all six doses in this vial, you should throw it away. “
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Instead of these vials being thrown in the trash, Musyj and Dilkens hope they can be brought just a few miles from the arms of the waiting Canadians – and they are not alone in their efforts.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati has also spoken out on the matter, telling Global News he too has been forced to reject perfectly good vaccines.
“Our American counterparts are asking us, ‘We have these additional vaccines. Are you interested in them before they are thrown into the landfill? “We prefer to put them in an arm rather than in a landfill,” Diodati said.
He said instead, however, that Americans “throw away vaccines every day because they expire.”
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“And we have weapons here that would be willing hosts for these vaccines,” Diodati said.
Both Dilkens and Musyj have suggested a number of proposals for bringing these additional doses into Canadian weapons. One idea is to invite pharmacists to meet Canadians at the border in the tunnel that connects Windsor and Detroit. The Canadians could basically reach out at the border crossing to get their jab.
The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have also sent a proposal to the federal and provincial governments, according to Musyj. They suggested that a vaccination center be set up at the base of the bridge on the US side, so Canadians can wait in their cars without having to go up the street to meet customs officials.
So far none of these efforts have been successful, according to Musyj and Dilkens.
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In a letter sent to Dilkens and obtained by Global News, the Public Health Agency of Canada explained why the Windsor mayor’s proposal would not work.
“Regarding the establishment of the proposed clinic, be aware that the vaccine cannot be imported into Canada without the express consent of Health Canada. We understand that the actual vaccination, in other words, the delivery of the vaccine into a patient’s arm, will occur on the US side of the border, ”they wrote.
“However, if the US nurse or pharmacist crosses the border to administer it to a person in Canada, this is considered an import of a product and requires a no-objection expression from Health Canada. “
PHAC added that by arming across the border and injecting the vaccine into Canada, the healthcare worker would be seen as important to the drug for sale in Canada.
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“If the vaccine is not approved for sale in Canada… the nurse could be found to be in contravention of the Food and Drug Regulations,” they wrote.
In a scenario where the vaccination takes place in Canadian space, the importation of the vaccine must be declared in accordance with the Customs Act. As such, the Canada Border Services Agency will need to determine on whose behalf the goods are being imported in order to determine the reporting requirements.
Musyj lamented that time was spent writing this letter, rather than trying to find a solution.
“Spend your time and effort making it happen, versus spending your time and effort writing us the rules to tell us why this shouldn’t happen,” Musyj said.
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Dilkens added that the government is finding “all means to say no to make this happen”.
“I’m looking for someone who will find a way to say, yes this is a sane way. This is the Pfizer vaccine which is manufactured at the same facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Let’s just find a way to do it, ”he said.
The federal government, however, insists that there are already more than enough vaccines arriving in Canada.
“We have a steady supply of vaccines arriving in Canada, including 55 million doses by the end of June. There are enough vaccines for every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated, ”said Aisling MacKnight, spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu, in an emailed statement.
On top of that, the federal government said it was not their decision.
“We encourage Windsor to work with the Province of Ontario if they have concerns about the current vaccination schedule for the second doses,” said MacKnight.
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But while the federal government points the finger at the provinces, the provinces shift the blame to the federal government.
“Federal quarantine rules are a barrier to this happening and it is a federal responsibility,” said Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot, in a statement sent by e-mail.
When asked if the province supports the ideas of Dilken and Musyj, Hilkene said the province is “supporting the vaccination of Ontarians as soon as possible.”
Global News also contacted the Michigan governor’s office for comment Thursday morning, but had not received a response at the time of publication.
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Meanwhile, as Musyj waits for different levels of government to decide how – and if – they want to fix the problem, he said he continues to see unvaccinated patients land in his intensive care unit.
He said there was still not enough vaccine to meet demand.
“We don’t have doses in the freezer. But what we have are patients in our intensive care unit who have not had the opportunity to receive their first or second dose – and they are in our intensive care unit on (ventilators), ”Musyj said. .
“I don’t want there to be more patients in our hospital or in our intensive care unit because they haven’t had a chance to get the vaccine, whether it’s their first or their second dose. “
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