No wasted doses: Health officials making plans to ensure no vaccine tossed away

Some health officials say they are making plans to ensure not a single drop of COVID-19 vaccine is wasted.

Many regions have created standby lists of health-care workers in hospitals near vaccination clinics, so those workers can be called for any spare doses that need to be administered fast.

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"We don’t want any wastage of such a scarce resource like this," Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said Thursday.

About 900 front-line health workers in Manitoba were to be vaccinated by the end of Friday.

Across the country, some 30,000 people are getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at 14 different sites as part of the largest mass vaccination effort in Canadian history.

Each region has varying plans to deliver their limited doses of the difficult-to-handle vaccine to high-risk recipients.

And time is of the essence. Once the vaccine is thawed and prepared, it must be used within five days.

"We absolutely don’t want any wasted doses," Roussin said.

He said if someone does not show up for an appointment, front-line staff from a nearby hospital are brought in for the shot.

There have been a few cases this week in Ontario where people who were scheduled for vaccinations were unable to get them, said Ana Fernandes, a public affairs adviser for the University Health Network.

The Ontario government has prioritized people working in long-term care homes in its COVID-19 vaccination pilot sites and there are strict criteria for who can take it.

Fernandes said officials have created a list of people who work in emergency rooms, intensive care departments and COVID-19 units in nearby hospitals. Twice a day, if there are unused doses, calls are made to people on the list.

Lessons from these pilot sites are important, she added, so no vaccination opportunities are lost as distribution ramps up.

Another 200,000 doses are expected in Canada next week, bound for 70 distribution sites.

Health Canada has said vials may contain a bit more than the five doses they are supposed to have. If possible, clinic staff can draw an additional dose or maybe even two. But mixing from vials is not recommended as it could result in cross-contamination, loss of sterility or improper dosing.

"The bottom line is don’t throw it away," Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Friday.

She said staff who are giving vaccinations should check to see if there's enough vaccine for an extra dose in each vial.

She added that if people forget to show up for their vaccination appointments, including for the required second dose, they should still get the shots another time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2020.

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