Ontario says Health Canada has extended the expiration date on “specific lots” of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday to seven months from six months.
The province had been at risk of wasting several thousand doses of AstraZeneca.
“Vaccine doses with an original expiry date of May 31, 2021 can now be used until July 1, 2021,” said a spokesperson for Ontario’s minister of health.
Ontario pharmacies brace for busy weekend as they race to use all expiring AstraZeneca vaccines
Ontario had begun to offer the second dose of AstraZeneca at a 10-week interval for those who got their first dose between March 10 and March 19. Following that, accelerated second doses were to be offered at a 12-week interval.
Ontario received just over 250,000 AstraZeneca doses the week of May 17.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones had been asked how many doses were potentially going to be wasted come Monday, but she would not give specifics, saying it was not a “clear cut” answer.
Health Canada said in a statement on Saturday that on May 27 it “received a submission from AstraZeneca that included product stability and mathematical modelling data that demonstrated that the quality, safety and efficacy of the two lots would be maintained for an extra month, for a total of up to seven months.
“This change will ensure that provinces and territories are able to use up their existing inventory and provide Canadians access to much needed doses of the vaccine,” the statement continued.
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The Ontario Pharmacy Association (OPA) said participating locations were preparing for a busy weekend as they hoped to administer thousands of vaccines before their expiry Monday and avoid any wastage.
“It is very much a best before date, it always has been. It’s not uncommon that you have an extension of expiration in hospitals for certain products. So this isn’t unprecedented,” said Justin Bates, chief executive officer of the OPA.
“… the real value here is that we’re always looking at the data and in this case, for storage and handling we’ve seen updated guidance.”
READ MORE: COVID-19: Ontario pharmacies waiting on AstraZeneca vaccine shipments
Bates said pharmacies had brought in extra staff and extended hours to accommodate more appointments over the weekend. With the extension only coming early Saturday, he said it will still be “business as usual” in regards to keeping the booked appointments.
He said it has been “extremely challenging and stressful” but that the high demand for the AstraZeneca shots has been “encouraging.”
Quality checks held up the delivery of thousands of shots well into Thursday, as the province worked to redistribute the stockpile of 45,000 doses due to expire Monday as well as 10,000 more expiring in June.
Approximately 31,600 doses had been delivered to pharmacies on Thursday, according to the province, with 11,500 doses already administered. The rest of the doses were expected to be delivered by the end of the day Friday.
Those looking to book their second shots can find participating pharmacies on the provincial website.
—With files from The Canadian Press
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