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

(OTTAWA) Canada is on the verge of throwing away more than half its doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because it has failed to find buyers in Canada and abroad.

Posted at 7:58pm

He also hasn’t explained how he intends to handle the millions of doses of Novavax and Medicago vaccines he’s purchased, but he’s unlikely to use them himself.

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

Canada signed a deal with AstraZeneca in 2020 to receive 20 million doses and 2.3 million Canadians received at least one dose of it, mostly between March and June 2021.

In spring 2021, Canada stopped calling AstraZeneca after concerns about rare but life-threatening blood clots from AstraZeneca and a larger shipment of RNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. A year ago, Canada announced 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 in its power” to deliver on that promise, but 13.6 million doses earmarked for that purpose have expired.

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

However, according to Health Canada, demand for AstraZeneca’s vaccine is limited because the company has been unable to find additional buyers for the available doses.

“Due to limited demand for the vaccines and difficulties that recipient countries have encountered in distribution and absorption, they have not been accepted,” the statement said.

Donate to keep their promises

The Dright Bruce Aylward, an infectious disease specialist originally from St. John’s and now senior adviser to the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press that Canada’s lack of confidence in AstraZeneca has contributed to vaccine reluctance around the world.

He mentioned that countries like Canada first stockpiled all the vaccines, then turned down AstraZeneca and offered it to low-income countries to meet their promises. Often these donations were made in bulk as they approached their expiration date.

A flood of doses of a vaccine that people were reluctant to get their hands on in countries lacking the health workers and infrastructure to mount a rapid and complex vaccination campaign was the perfect storm for rejection and decay. .

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

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

MSF Canada’s head of medical policy and advocacy, Adam Houston, said it was “extremely disappointing” that the 75 per cent cans of AstraZeneca that Canada had promised to donate were being thrown away.

“It underscores that vaccines in press releases don’t result in vaccines in the arms,” ​​Houston said.

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

Canada has also pledged to donate 10 million doses each of 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 a promised 10 million doses, but discarded 1.2 million doses of that vaccine.

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

He urged the federal government to finally release full details of their vaccine contracts and dose usage plan.

Canada has also signed deals to receive 52 million doses of the vaccine from Novavax and 20 million from Medicago, but now relies almost exclusively on Pfizer and Moderna.

Canada has received 3.2 million doses of Novavax to date and no further shipments are expected. He has not received anything from Medicago, but a spokeswoman said Canada is working with that company on a delivery schedule.

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

Medicago’s donation is more complex because 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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