Alberta health minister, Dr. Hinshaw deny claims of COVID-19 vaccine waste as ‘misinformation’

Alberta’s health minister and chief medical officer of health say there is “misinformation” circulating online about COVID-19 vaccine going to waste in the province.

Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw issued a joint statement Tuesday morning to “definitively address this inaccurate information.”

Read more: Alberta doctors levy criticism over province’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

In the statement, the health officials said in all large-scale immunization programs, some wastage will occur and a “minimal amount of vaccine will be lost when drawing doses or if a vial is dropped or spilled.

“While this is upsetting, it is unavoidable. It is also extremely limited thanks to the processes in place,” the statement reads.

“In fact, the COVID-19 immunization program to date has had significantly less wastage per administered dose than what occurs in a typical influenza immunization program. In fact, wastage in the COVID-19 vaccine program is at 0.3 per cent, and typical immunization programs can see wastage around six per cent.”

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The province did not specify the “misinformation” it was referencing. However, a tweet posted late Monday night by an assistant professor with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry gained a lot of traction online and garnered a response from Alberta Health Services.

In the tweet, Dr. Tehseen Ladha said she has heard from health-care workers who say “unused doses of COVID-19 vaccine in opened vials are being discarded at the end of the day.”

AHS responded to the claim on Twitter, saying it is “rapidly immunizing as many Albertans as quickly as possible, ensuring vaccine doses are utilized. There have been no reports of significant vaccine wastage.

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“If and when we have an appointment cancellation, we administer the allocated dose to the next person in line. Any currently unused doses are going to be administered to eligible Albertans in the coming days,” AHS said.

Read more: No evidence coronavirus vaccine will work if second shot comes too late: Pfizer-BioNTech

In their statement, Shandro and Hinshaw went on to say that in the early planning stages of immunization, AHS was asked to “devise a strategy to ensure that the risk of vaccine wastage was minimized. We are also exploring ways to further reduce wastage.

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“Doses are thawed and prepared according to pre-scheduled appointments, and appointments are overbooked to ensure that enough health-care workers are always in line.

“If a scenario arises where staff have no booked appointments left but there are thawed doses available, those administering the vaccines are able to vaccinate each other. The vaccine cannot be re-frozen or put in a fridge.”

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine vials may hold more doses than previously thought, officials say

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam was asked about the situation on Tuesday, but said she had not personally heard of any reports of vaccine wastage.

“I don’t know of any reports that have been forwarded to us in terms of vaccine wastage,” she said.

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“I think just prior to the Christmas period, we heard that from the manufacturers that you can — if there’s actually enough for another dose from the Pfizer’s vial — you could use that. There may be other reasons why all the dose is not used.”

In mid-December, Hinshaw said that each vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine typically contains five doses. However, it’s possible some Pfizer vials could contain enough of the COVID-19 vaccine for six doses.

“When creating these vials, there is enough put in the vials to make sure that there is a guaranteed five doses in each vial. If you have a very skilled immunization administrator who is able to withdraw exactly the amount needed and no more, it is possible that some vials may be able to provide enough for six doses of vaccine,” Hinshaw said on Dec. 17.

“That is something that our immunizers are looking at and when possible, that of course we will be able to provide those extra doses whenever that vial is handled in such a way to make that last dose available.”

Click to play video 'COVID-19: Alberta’s top doctor says it’s possible to get 6 doses out of one vaccine vial, but priority is still 5 doses' COVID-19: Alberta’s top doctor says it’s possible to get 6 doses out of one vaccine vial, but priority is still 5 doses

COVID-19: Alberta’s top doctor says it’s possible to get 6 doses out of one vaccine vial, but priority is still 5 doses – Dec 17, 2020

The statement said health-care workers are working around the clock to execute Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

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As of Jan. 3, 22,861 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta.

Hinshaw is scheduled to provide an in-person update on COVID-19 at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. Global News will live stream the media availability in this story post.

More to come…

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