TORONTO – Thousands of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines expiring next week were still undergoing quality control in Ontario on Thursday, as pharmacists ready to administer the doses expressed frustration at the delay.
A stock of 45,000 doses expires Monday, while another 10,000 expire at the end of June. The province said about 5,000 are due to be sent by later Thursday, another 12,000 are due to be disposed of on Friday and more are still under consideration.
COVID-19: Ontario pharmacies await AstraZeneca vaccine shipments
A spokesperson for the health minister said quality checks were needed because storage data for some of the doses was incomplete.
“No dose will be sent that is deemed to be unsafe,” said Alexandra Hilkene.
Ontario stopped administering the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month after saying it was linked to an increased risk of a rare but serious blood clotting disorder.
The province began offering a second injection of the vaccine this week – at a 10-week dosing interval – to the first batch of AstraZeneca recipients to use the soon-to-expire doses.
Ontarians who received the vaccine between March 10 and March 19 in Kingston, Windsor and Toronto are eligible to reserve a second dose – although only 162 of the original 325 sites are participating this time around.
About 90,000 people participated in the AstraZeneca pilot project during this period. Many have reported problems and frustration with booking second dates.
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About 26,600 doses of the soon-to-expired AstraZeneca had been dispatched by Thursday morning, Hilkene said.
The distribution delay has largely affected pharmacies in Toronto, according to the head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.
Justin Bates said five sites in Toronto and those in Kingston and Windsor had received doses earlier in the week, but 99 pharmacies in Toronto were still waiting.
Those still ready for doses have also been told their shipments will be smaller than expected, and more could arrive on Friday, Bates said. Some were forced to cancel appointments and change staff schedules, with less time to pass doses before the end of the day on Monday.
“It takes a lot,” Bates said. “I am still confident that we will be able to mobilize and do everything to get these shots. The demand is high, but this puts them in a difficult situation. “
Kyro Maseh, owner of a Pharmasave in east Toronto, said Thursday morning that he had ordered 400 doses of the soon-to-expired AstraZeneca injections but still did not know when he would receive the shipment.
He had to postpone patient appointments and ask volunteers to change their schedules as well.
“I’m trying to do my part and help so people can get the optimal protection, but now I’m faced with a gun and I’m the one who has to reprogram and explain to patients and get yelled at.” , did he declare. mentionned.
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The tight schedule left Maseh wondering if he and his volunteers would be able to administer all the expected doses before they expire.
Ontario reported 1,135 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 19 more deaths linked to the virus. The data was based on more than 37,700 tests performed.
The Ministry of Health has reported 1,072 hospitalizations in Ontario, including 650 intensive care patients and 452 ventilator patients.
–With files from Liam Casey
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