The amount of COVID-19 vaccine that is wasted in Manitoba is well within an acceptable range, the provincial government reports.
About 0.9 per cent of doses in Manitoba have had to be tossed after opening.
A provincial spokesman provided figures to the Free Press that stated as of Wednesday afternoon, 222,130 doses had been administered provincewide, while 1,994 doses were thrown out. The province uses five per cent of total administered as an acceptable limit for wastage. That's the standard set by the World Health Organization for what it calls "avoidable open vial wastage."
Each vial of COVID-19 vaccine contains several doses which must be used within a limited time after the vial has been opened. In a statement, the provincial spokesman said Manitoba is trying to avoid throwing out doses that are leftover in a vial at the end of the day, and that vials have to be disposed of for other reasons, too, such as if they look cloudy or if the syringe comes into contact with anything else before injection.
"Staff in clinics closely monitor the amount of vaccine on hand, particularly towards the end of every clinic, to minimize any loss of vaccine that remains in a vial. However, there are other reasons that vaccine may not be used and it is critical to recognize that an immunization campaign without waste would not be a safe campaign," the province's statement said.
Manitoba has not established guidelines for immunizers to decide who should be vaccinated when opened vials need to be used at the last minute, including at the end of the day at vaccine clinics, or in cases of no-show appointments. The vaccine task force advised doctors and pharmacists not to bypass the province's current eligibility criteria if they have leftover doses, and to instead vaccinate clinic or pharmacy staff with extra doses.
Pharmacists and doctors have been tasked with creating their own waiting lists for vaccine appointments, and it's up to them to deliver thousands of doses. Of the initial shipment of 18,000 AstraZeneca doses that doctors and pharmacists received last month, 95 per cent of it has been administered.
Another shipment of 54,600 doses is on the way to doctors and pharmacists. The rollout in doctors' offices and pharmacies is for people aged 55 to 64 with serious health conditions (a list of which was set by the province), while older Manitobans were expected to visit vaccine super-sites in urban centres. But the province quietly granted permission for clinics to also immunize Manitobans 65 and up before publicly announcing the change Wednesday, stating priority was supposed to be given to people who couldn't travel to super-sites. A provincial spokesperson didn't respond to Free Press inquiries asking when that change was made.
The AstraZeneca vaccine can be refrigerated for 48 hours, but must be used within six hours at room temperature.
When the province was getting ready to start distributing vaccines to pharmacies, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine task force, faced a question from pharmacists about what to do with extra doses, and whether it was preferable to waste doses or disregard the province's set age eligibility. In the Feb. 25 webinar for Pharmacists Manitoba, Reimer said it was "very unlikely" the task force would allow bypassing age restrictions. At that time, she said they were still working on a plan for what to do with leftover doses.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.