Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines at the Junction Chemist during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines at the Junction Chemist during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Impatience, lack of clarity as clock ticks on AstraZeneca expiry date

Rare, fatal blood clots have led several provinces to stop giving the COVID-19 shot

Impatience and a lack of clarity persisted Thursday over the fate of thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine set to expire in the coming weeks but answers could be coming within days.

Several provinces have stopped giving the COVID-19 shot over concerns of rare, fatal blood clots. Health authorities were still trying to decide whether to resume its use and if using a different vaccine for second shots makes sense.

At the same time, Ottawa has been distributing hundreds of thousands of AstraZeneca doses to the provinces, some of which are sitting on soon-to-expire stockpiles. Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said vaccine wastage was largely an issue for the provinces to sort out.

Justin Bates, head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said an announcement that had been expected on Thursday would now likely happen in the coming days. The association, he said, was in confidential discussions with the province about using the AstraZeneca, something he said should be done.

“Absolutely. We have a shared objective with the ministry to ensure that we use, wherever appropriate and feasible, all of the AstraZeneca remaining doses.”

Ontario is banking on a steady increase in vaccinations for its three-phased reopening to start, tentatively in mid-June. Health Minister Christine Elliott indicated on Thursday the province was leaning toward using AstraZeneca for second doses.

“We are waiting for the final recommendations (from experts) on what we should do with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Elliott said. “Data from the U.K. indicate that any problems with the second shot are far less.”

Quebec, which on Thursday said it just received 148,000 doses from the federal government, has stopped using the vaccine for a first shot. The province did say the new shipment would likely be reserved for second doses for people aged 45 and older but it was not clear when that would happen.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer in Alberta, said the province had about 7,000 doses, expiring at the end of June.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said earlier this week the vaccines would not go to waste but Ontario, which has about 31,000 unused doses, is up against a May 31 expiry date. Similarly, Manitoba has also reported having about 7,000 AstraZeneca doses that need to be used before month’s end.

“Provinces and territories are weighing their options very closely in terms of second doses for those people who have received AstraZeneca for a first dose,” Hajdu said.

Bates said it would take a concerted effort to get the shots in arms, if approved, before expiry involving reaching out patients to schedule an appointment. They would also need to provide informed consent around dosage intervals and relative risks, which he said were far outweighed by the potential benefits.

“We’re just waiting for direction,” Bates said. “We can move quickly.”

More than 2.1 million people have had AstraZeneca. Health authorities said there were about two-dozen confirmed cases of vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, the rare but serious blood-clotting disorder.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, known as NACI, was still awaiting data from a study on giving a so-called mRNA vaccine as a second dose for AstraZeneca.

Njoo said advice on whether provinces can mix and match vaccine brands should be ready in the first week of June.

It was up to the provinces to decide whether to offer a second dose of AstraZeneca, an mRNA, or a choice between the two. Preliminary results from the U.K. study on mixing and matching were promising, he said.

“It bodes well for individuals who have received the first dose of AstraZeneca having that choice, and at the end of the day it comes down to making an informed decision,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Krista Brodie, in charge of the federal distribution program, said Health Canada would destroy any expired doses.

Dr. Irfan Dhalla, an internal medicine specialist in Toronto, said this week people should be able to choose whether to get AstraZeneca, either as a first or second dose, or wait for another brand known as an mRNA vaccine. They might have good reasons to choose AstraZeneca for one or both shots, he said.

-Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, with files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Catherine Levesque and Mia Rabson in Ottawa.

RELATED: B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

RELATED: Experts call on Canada to use COVAX doses of AstraZeneca or give them back

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

Christina Lake Fire Department’s Chief Joe Geary eyes the camera from behind the wheel of the department’s 40-year-old bush truck. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Christina Lake FD needs new equipment, upgrades, prompting loan by RDKB

It’s not whether the department needs the equipment, it’s how voters will pay for it, says Regional District

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

Greenwood Elementary’s Nelson Thompson (Grade 5) and Lincoln Simmonds (Grade 6) take a fun-filled turn on the swing at Lions Park Thursday, June 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
IN PHOTOGRAPHS: ‘This is yours now,’ Greenwood Mayor tells children at playground opening

The opening ceremony at Lions Park was attended by kids from Greenwood Elementary Thursday, June 17

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read