At least 1,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses wasted in Ontario, ministry of health says
A COVID-19 vaccine is prepared to be administered at a hospital in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Published Thursday, March 4, 2021 9:02AM EST
The Ford government says at least 1,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were wasted since Ontario started inoculating people almost three months ago, CTV News Toronto has learned.
Data provided by the Ministry of Health confirms that approximately 1,100 doses of Pfizer BioNTech’s vaccine and 400 doses of Moderna’s vaccine it received from Dec. 14 to Mar. 2 went to waste, resulting in an average loss of 19 doses per day.
The wastage accounts for 0.1 per cent of Ontario’s total vaccine inventory, which was approximately 1,092,000 as of Tuesday.
Compared to the number of shots actually administered during that time, it represents 0.2 per cent.
In a statement, the ministry said there are “many reasons” why the vaccines weren’t administered, including “insufficient doses from a vial or vaccine storage and administration issues.”
"Vaccine wastage in Ontario is very minimal and uncommon, and Ontario’s health-care workers administering the vaccine are doing an incredible job ensuring doses of the COVID-19 vaccines don’t go to waste," a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.
The wasted doses could have fully vaccinated 750 Ontarians if they were administered.
The World Health Organization says some vaccine wastage is unavoidable and there were concerns prior to the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada that as many as one-fifth of the doses shipped to the country could end up being wasted due to the the storage requirements and distribution challenges.
At the beginning of Ontario’s vaccine rollout, chair of Ontario’s vaccine task force retired Gen. Rick Hillier emphasized administering doses to as many people as possible despite inoculating priority groups first due to fears of wasting the time-sensitive vials.
Hillier acknowledged at the time that some hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area chose to inoculate non-frontline health-care workers because some long-term care workers couldn’t travel to hospital inoculation sites in time before the vials expired.
“Because once we had opened those Pfizer vaccines and we could not move them at that stage, we did not want to waste them obviously,” Hillier said on Jan 13. “Speed trumps perfection.”
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have to be stored in freezers and must be used shortly after being removed. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which was approved for use across the country last week, does not have the same storage requirements and can be kept in refrigerators.
Since vaccinations began, some health units across the province said they had difficulties extracting a sixth dose from COVID-19 vaccine vials. Health Canada, however, said last month that a sixth dose can regularly be extracted from Pfizer’s vials. Getting a sixth dose requires the use of a special syringe that traps less vaccine in the syringe after it is injected.
Ontario is currently in Phase 1 of its vaccination program, which focuses on vaccinating many frontline health-care workers, chronic home care patients, long-term care home and retirement home residents and Indigenous adults. Last month, the province also confirmed that members of the general population who are 80 years old and older will also be included in Phase 1.
The ministry did not breakdown the amount of vaccine wastage in each of Ontario’s 34 public health units.
However, Niagara Region is the only public health unit that is reporting the total number of doses wasted, and listed that 11 doses had been tossed as of Mar. 3.
Ontario has administered more than 754,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Tuesday evening, and 266,710 people have been fully vaccinated.
Two doses of a vaccine administered several weeks apart is required for full immunization.
-With files from CTV News Toronto's Colin D'Mello