Ontario received permission from Health Canada to extend the expiration of some doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine on Saturday, saving thousands of shots from being wasted.
Health Secretary Christine Elliott’s spokeswoman said the change means the doses can now be used with the original May 31 expiration through July 1.
“Health Canada has issued a mandate to extend the expiration date of specific batches of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from six months to seven months, after reviewing the stability data provided,” Alexandra Helkin said in a statement.
Pharmacies and county doctors’ offices were rushing to administer thousands of shots this weekend before their expiration date the previous Monday to avoid wasted doses.
Ontario was trying to redistribute a stockpile of 45,000 rounds expiring May 31 and another 10,000 rounds in June.
But quality checks hampered the delivery of thousands of shots, many of which had not reached their final destination until Friday.
Watch | Health Canada extends expiration date for thousands of AstraZeneca doses:
The president of the Ontario Pharmacists Association said Health Canada’s decision is not unprecedented when it comes to developing data linked to a new vaccine.
It’s good news,” said Justin Bates. “Although I appreciate that this will create a lot of questions…so that people can continue to make an informed consent decision.”
Bates said pharmacies in various parts of Ontario have stepped up efforts to get shots into the arms and avoid wasting any doses — and those efforts will continue.
“It gives us a longer runway and lowers the risk of anything [waste]Which I think is a good thing and that’s the silver lining in all of this.”
Bioethicist says ‘I wouldn’t worry’ about expiration date
Keri Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, welcomed the news Saturday in an interview with CBC’s Natasha Fateh.
“The fact that there will be no waste is very important,” Bowman said.
Although the expiration date is likely to “frighten a lot of people,” he said extreme caution is taken when setting original expiration dates.
“I wouldn’t worry about that at all,” Bowman said.
The county halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month due to increased reports of rare but fatal blood clots.
Although uncommon, vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia (VITT) is much more severe than typical thromboembolism because it can cause cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), in which the veins draining blood from the brain are obstructed and can cause fatal bleeding
Recently, a German research team brought up a potential solution to prevent VITT and help laboratories adapt AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to increase safety and boost global vaccination efforts. But experts warn that it is too early to draw firm conclusions about the theory.
Ontario began offering the AstraZeneca vaccine again this week as a second injection to people who received the dose between March 10 and March 19 in pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor and Kingston, and in some primary care offices.
Nearly 90,000 people participated in the AstraZeneca pilot between March 10 and March 19.