The number of expired Moderna shots has risen to 7.7 million and the government has also now disposed of 3.1 million doses of the Novavax vaccine
The federal government’s data for discarded vaccines are current as of the end of October this year and don’t include vaccines that may have expired and were discarded after they were sent to provincial governments.
Canada ordered tens of millions of doses from seven different manufacturers before any of the vaccines had cleared clinical trials, at a cost of more than $9 billion.
Most Canadians received either Moderna or Pfizer doses in 2021, the first two serums approved by regulators. Canada has received nearly 150 million doses from those two manufacturers and another 9.7 million doses of Novavax’s shot, nearly a third of which have expired and only 117,000 doses of which were actually distributed in Canada.
Canada initially ordered 20 million doses of AstraZeneca, but stopped distributing that product in the spring of 2021 in light of reports from other countries that linked it to dangerous blood clots in a small number of patients.
Anna Maddison, a spokesperson for Health Canada, said the government focused on a diverse vaccine supply at the outset to ensure Canadians would be covered.
“This approach ensures that we have enough vaccine supply for people in Canada to stay up to date on their vaccines, including boosters. Canada continues to work closely with COVAX and other key stakeholders, including manufacturers, to ensure that surplus Canadian doses are made available for donation with the longest shelf life possible,” she said in an email.
Maddison said the government does the best it can to ensure vaccines don’t spoil before their expiry date.
“Despite efforts of supply management and good stewardship of goods, there will be wastage as doses expire before they’re used in Canada or eligible for donation, and must be disposed of in accordance with appropriate handling and storage guidelines.”
Canada’s vaccine uptake has been relatively high with 80 per cent of Canadians getting their first two doses, but there has been a much weaker uptake for subsequent booster shots.
Just 50 per cent of Canadians have received a third-dose booster and just 14.3 per cent have received a fourth dose, despite public health officials’ recommendations.
Canada’s surplus doses are supposed to go to COVAX, a project of GAVI, an international vaccine alliance, that has been working on distributing vaccines for various diseases since 2000.
Canada committed to contributing the equivalent of 200 million doses through the COVAX initiative. The 200-million-dose commitment includes surplus vaccines as well as money Canada provided so developing countries could purchase their own doses.
According to the Canadian government’s figures, they are on track to meet that 200-million target by the end of this year having already given the equivalent of 140 million doses, including 50 million surplus doses from Canada’s supply as well as cash donations.
Only about half of the doses Canada has delivered to COVAX have been sent onto other countries.
Evan O’Connell, a spokesperson for GAVI, said the alliance is meeting its targets and getting the doses it needs.
“Thanks to great cooperation from donors, including Canada, COVAX has now distributed nearly two billion doses worldwide. Supply is meeting demand,” he said in an email.
O’Connell said in the 92 lower-income countries supported by COVAX, an average of 51 per cent of people are vaccinated with 64 per cent of older people and 77 per cent of health-care workers having received their vaccines.
“We continue to work with Canada and other donors, as well as manufacturers, to ensure supply meets demand,” O’Connell said.