Canada prepares to throw away 13.6 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine

Canada prepares to throw away 13.6 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine

(OTTAWA) Canada is about to scrap more than half of its Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses as it has found no takers either in Canada or abroad.

Posted yesterday at 19:58

He has also not yet explained how he plans to handle the millions of doses of Novavax and Medicago vaccines he has purchased, but it is unlikely he will use them himself.

A statement from Health Canada says that 13.6 million doses of the vaccine expired in the spring and will be discarded.

Canada had signed a contract with AstraZeneca in 2020 to obtain 20 million doses, and 2.3 million Canadians received at least one dose, mostly between March and June 2021.

In the spring of 2021, following concerns about rare but life-threatening blood clots from AstraZeneca and an increased supply of RNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, Canada stopped calling AstraZeneca. A year ago, Canada announced that it would donate 17.7 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to low-income countries.

In an emailed statement, Health Canada said “Canada has done everything possible” to fulfill that promise, but 13.6 million doses intended for that purpose have expired.

As of June 22, nearly nine million doses have been delivered to 21 different countries.

But demand for AstraZeneca’s vaccine is limited, according to Health Canada, which has been unable to find more candidates for the available doses.

“Due to limited demand for the vaccines and difficulties encountered by recipient countries in distribution and acceptance, they were not accepted,” the statement said.

Donations to keep your promises

The Dr Bruce Aylward, an infectious disease specialist originally from St. John’s and now a senior adviser to the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), told The Canadian Press in a recent interview that Canada’s lack of confidence in AstraZeneca has contributed to doubts about vaccines worldwide. .

He mentioned that countries like Canada first hoarded all the vaccines, then rejected AstraZeneca and offered it to low-income countries to meet their commitments. Often these donations were made in large amounts as they neared their due date.

An excess of doses of a vaccine that people were hesitant to obtain in countries that lacked the health personnel and infrastructure to carry out a rapid and complex vaccination campaign was the perfect storm for rejection and expiration. .

“They made it incredibly difficult for political leaders in low-income countries to get vaccination coverage,” Aylward said.

About 85% of Canadians are considered to be fully immunized, compared to 61% of the world’s population and only 16% of people living in the world’s poorest countries.

The head of medical policy and advocacy for Doctors Without Borders in Canada, Adam Houston, said it is “extremely disappointing” that 75% of the AstraZeneca doses that Canada has pledged to donate are being thrown away.

“It underscores how vaccinations in press releases don’t translate to vaccinations in the arms,” ​​Houston said.

“Today, the global supply of vaccines is no longer the main problem,” he continues. But a year ago, it absolutely was. Had the actions of countries like Canada lived up to their rhetoric of vaccine fairness since the start of the pandemic, fewer vaccines would have been wasted and, more importantly, more lives saved. »

Canada has also committed to donating 10 million doses each of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines. The first had production problems and Canada did not donate this vaccine.

Canada also donated 6.1 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine out of the promised 10 million doses, but threw away 1.2 million of that vaccine.

New Democratic Party (NDP) health critic Don Davies said it was “unacceptable” for doses to expire when millions of people have yet to receive a single injection. “There is no excuse for such waste,” Davies said.

He called on the federal government to finally publish all the details of its vaccine contracts and dose utilization plan.

Canada also signed contracts to get 52 million doses of the vaccine from Novavax and 20 million from Medicago, but now relies almost entirely on Pfizer and Moderna.

Canada has received 3.2 million doses of Novavax so far and no further shipments are expected. It hasn’t received anything from Medicago, but a spokeswoman said Canada is working with that company on a delivery schedule.

WHO licensed Novavax’s vaccine for emergency use in December and Health Canada in February. The contract allows Canada to donate doses of both vaccines, but Canada has not confirmed that it will donate them.

The Medicago donation is more complex, as the WHO does not approve its use by COVAX due to Medicago’s financial ties to tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Neither Novavax nor Medicago responded to media inquiries Tuesday.

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