MANITOBA pharmacies and clinics that administer AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have to take matters into their own hands to make sure no doses spoil.
"It’s a logistical nightmare to prevent (wastage)," said Ryan Chan, owner of Exchange District Pharmacy on McDermot Avenue.
The pharmacist prevented precious doses from going down the drain by developing a list of standby patients the day before the province sent its vaccine allotment.
"Basically, once you open up a vaccine, there’s 10 doses and you have 48 hours to use the doses. It comes down to being proactive: planning ahead, trying to schedule everyone specifically for that day, having designated days to do the vaccines and making sure they come within that time frame," said Chan.
"The vaccines are available on this day. We don’t give them a choice — if you want the vaccine, these are the days we’re giving out the vaccines."
If there are extra shots— the AstraZeneca vaccine vials hold either eight or 10 one-millilitre doses but occasionally contain slightly more — the standby patients are called.
"In order to prevent (waste), it requires good planning, a bunch of phone calls and having a list of people to call on standby," Chan said. "Being proactive, anticipating, estimating usage and whatnot — if you have all that down pat, you can prevent wastage."
Out of his first 100-dose allotment, Chan managed to administer shots to 104 people.
Pharmacist Jason Hoeppner, who owns Osborne Street Medicine Shoppe, had no concern about wastage related to the first 50 doses that arrived last month.
"Those doses were all spoken for before we started our two days that we gave them over," said Hoeppner.
"We had a few extra doses, because we had overfill in the vials, so we ended up giving more than 50 doses out of the 50 doses that we received."
The pharmacy had an online waiting list.
"There’s some screening questions when people are putting themselves in the wait-list that help us to identify the high-risk individuals. One of the questions on there is ‘Are you available on one-hour or short notice to come to the pharmacy if we call you?’ We can filter and find those people pretty easily," he said.
National pharmacy chain Rexall has online waiting lists for its 17 pharmacies in Manitoba.
The province confirmed Wednesday it’s up to clinics and pharmacies to figure out how best to hand out the shots.
"It’s been communicated to our distributed model channel partners (pharmacies/medical clinics) they will oversee/administrate how they allocate doses as per eligible patients," a provincial spokesperson wrote in an email to the Free Press.
As of Wednesday, "a total of 299,821 doses have been administered. Of that total, 2,348 doses (0.78 per cent) have been wasted. The manufacturer recommends planning for five per cent waste/lost vaccine."
People between the ages of 55 and 64 with select health conditions, and those 65 and older, are currently eligible for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from a pharmacist or medical clinic.
Health Canada said Wednesday there are no population restrictions for the product, but Manitoba public health officials said they’re waiting for the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to update its guidance on how to use it.
— with files from Danielle Da Silva
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.