The number of wasted or expired doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta has increased dramatically over the past five months.
Alberta Health (AH) communications director Chris Bourdeau told Global News: “So far, about 10% of injections into Alberta have been wasted or expired.
“By comparison, the waste in the 2019-20 flu campaign is about 8%.”
Although AH was unable to provide the exact number of wasted or expired doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the province said it had received 7,836,025 doses in total as of Nov.
According to AH, the COVID-19 vaccine waste rate through the end of June was 0.4%.
“Alberta continues to work hard to reduce waste, but increased waste is inevitable as we have moved to serve a smaller number of customers,” Bourdeau said.
“Vials contain multiple doses and often cannot be used up before the remaining doses expire.”
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Just over 82% of eligible Albertans were fully immunized, and 88% of those eligible received at least one dose.
To date, 6,730,737 doses have been administered in Alberta.
AH spokeswoman Lisa Glover said: “As vaccine coverage hits new highs in Alberta, the number of Albertans getting vaccinated each day has dropped, and much of the dose left in the vial will be wasted. waste”. “This is not a challenge unique to Alberta.”
Pharmacist Randy Howden, who also owns a Medicine Shoppe location, said: “Pharmacies in Alberta are working hard to limit the amount of waste caused by block scheduling patients. “But we want to make it as successful as possible, so if someone wants the first or second dose, I’ll open that vial for them to make sure they have the vaccine.”
In mid-October, the Alberta Pharmacists Association published a position statement on the Alberta Vaccine Reservation System, which called for a number of changes, including adding “screening eligibility criteria for age, status and vaccination interval”.
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Howden said there have been cases at two of his Calgary pharmacies in which people who are not eligible have booked their vaccination appointments. Not only does that make a vial of defrost more likely to go to waste, he says, but it also causes frustration among pharmacists.
Once opened, a bottle of Pfizer with six doses lasts for six hours while a bottle of Moderna with 10 or 14 doses lasts for 24 hours, according to Alberta Health.
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“It was really frustrating for us because we knew that there were things that could have been done, that were asked to be done to help minimize the inconvenience,” said Janaya Matheson, a co-founder of VaxHunterAB. this waste.
“We have achieved nothing but squandering the drugs already here. We need the vaccine to be usable for the first and second doses, but also (to) not waste it unnecessarily. ”
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Currently, anyone 70 years of age or older, a health care worker directly caring for a patient receiving a second dose less than eight weeks after the first dose, and all First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups of 18 years of age or older are eligible for a third booster shot, as long as it’s been at least six months since their second dose.
Currently, Alberta’s third dose eligibility is in line with the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, but there is no timeline on when or how eligibility could be extended. condition.
Matheson is pushing for a rollout plan to qualify for a third dose to avoid dose wastage and provide some flexibility over the six-month period between the second and third doses.
She said VaxHunterAB had heard from a healthcare worker in Alberta who had been turned away for showing up two days before they entered the six-month window, and 80-year-olds one day after six months were told. know they can’t get a third dose either.
“It would be helpful to issue a plan for future boosters like BC and Ontario so that we have a ‘next qualified’ list where potential waste… (could) be used. use,” Matheson said.
“Also, allow a little longer before six months if the dose is wasted otherwise would be helpful.”
On November 9, Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr Deena Hinshaw was asked when a third dose might be most appropriate for the general population.
“We know from our data that vaccines continue to provide very strong protection against serious outcomes for the general population and currently eligible groups who may be at risk. increase. that third dose,” she replied.
“So I don’t think there is a specific timeline regarding the decisions. Again, we continue to monitor the evidence and make recommendations based on the best available evidence.”
By comparison, BC has rolled out its full third dose booster plan, which will expand to include all British Columbians 12 years of age and older starting January 2022.
On November 15, Hinshaw reiterated the importance of waiting at least six months between the second and third dose of COVID-19.
“Available evidence suggests that overall protection from vaccines is best when COVID is repeated at least six months after the previous dose,” she said. “By waiting for the right amount of time, you will get better protection from the vaccine for people who are not currently eligible for a third dose.
“Please know that we are monitoring the evidence closely and we will notify you if anything changes for all Albertans.”
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