COVID-19 vaccine wastage issues in Canada as Moderna doses expire this week – .

COVID-19 vaccine wastage issues in Canada as Moderna doses expire this week – .

Thousands of COVID-19 vaccines are set to expire in Canada this week, with pharmacists in Ontario worried about wastage as they hesitate to mix different doses.

In Ontario alone, “several thousand” doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will expire on August 6, said Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA).

“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances,” he said Monday in an interview with Global News.

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Vaccine supplies arrive in their frozen state each week and once they are delivered to a pharmacy and thawed, there is a 30-day window for the doses to be used up – or they must be discarded.

Bates said they plan to transfer some doses to pharmacies in other parts of the healthcare system so they don’t have to be thrown away.

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“We’re going to use all the tools we have to avoid waste, but the reality is we’re going to see waste starting August 6. “

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Meanwhile, thousands of expired AstraZeneca vaccine doses have already been wasted in Atlantic Canada after demand dried up in June and July.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was able to move 1,400 doses of AstraZeneca to Ontario in mid-May for use there as they neared their expiration date. However, the province had 2,848 doses of the vaccine expired at the end of June. Almost 2,900 doses were wasted in July.

Prince Edward Island has also phased out 3,200 expired doses of AstraZeneca, the province said last month.

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But the national loss rate so far has been “very minimal and well below initial estimates,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

As of July 12, less than 0.05% of the total doses issued by the federal government had been wasted, PHAC told Global News.

The increase in vaccine supply coupled with declining immunization rates has left unused doses close to expiration data, said Dr. Gerald Evans, infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. .

“We are now in this small group, which … has been a little reluctant (to get vaccinated) so far,” he said.

Bates said there has been a sharp drop in demand for Moderna shots over the past two weeks in Ontario.

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“We’ve seen this in public health clinics where people turn away when they find out it’s Moderna or they don’t show up,” he said.

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The hesitation around the Moderna vaccine and the mixing of doses led to many cancellations and no-shows at pharmacies, Bates said, adding that people were demanding Pfizer rather than Moderna.

Since June, several provinces have been mixing COVID-19 vaccines under the recommendation of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

According to NACI, people who have received a first dose of an mRNA vaccine should be offered the same vaccine for their second dose, but mRNA vaccines may be interchangeable if the same product is not readily available for the patient. second dose.

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The so-called “brand hesitation” is also present in Alberta, where an Edmonton pharmacist said he noticed that about 40 percent of customers refused the Moderna vaccine after a first dose of Pfizer.

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“Once they hear we’re giving Moderna, there’s been a bit of a pushback,” pharmacist Eddie Wong told Global News in a previous interview.

Evans said that while the two mRNA vaccines are equally effective, Pfizer has done a “really good job of branding.”

“It’s not so much that Moderna has a bad reputation, it’s just that Pfizer has really dominated the mRNA vaccine market. “

Regarding the mix of doses, he said there was evidence in several studies that supported the strategy used by Canada and Europe, adding that “it was not an inferior approach”.

Amid concerns about wastage, Evans said Canada should consider donating vaccines to other countries facing financial problems or other constraints.

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Selling them to countries like Australia, which has recently seen an increase in the number of cases and lack of vaccines, is another option.

“If we have large amounts like this, we should be talking to other countries. “

Provinces should also try to send doses that have not yet been thawed to other areas where there is a shortage of supply, he said.

Bill Campbell, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health, told Global News Monday that the province “is working with federal partners to explore possibilities for donating vaccines in the future.”

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Will Canadians Need a Third Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine?

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One strategy to avoid waste, Bates said, would be to start offering a third booster dose to the elderly, populations at high risk of morbidity, and those with compromised immunity.

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“This is a scenario that we ask the Ministry of Health to explore and move forward quickly,” he said.

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But some experts are skeptical of the lack of clinical evidence for booster shots.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters at a virtual press conference on July 30 that while the evidence is “moving rapidly,” there is “not enough yet. data ”to back them up entirely – despite countries like Israel moving forward with additional immunization.

“There is not enough data to suggest that in Canada we would be improving at this time,” she said. “But this is something that we are watching very carefully. “

– with files from Sean O’Shea of ​​Global News, Chris Chacon and the Canadian Press.

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