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

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Most Read