Manitoba wastes a few drops of COVID-19 vaccine during first days of immunizations

Manitoba was forced to waste a small quantity of COVID-19 vaccine last week because some health-care workers didn’t show up for appointments or decided to put off their shots at the last minute.

The province confirmed Monday the contents of several vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were not used entirely at the end of the first three days of health-care worker vaccinations at the COVID-19 immunization clinic at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be injected within five hours of being prepared for use. That meant some wastage at the end of the day, a spokesperson for the province confirmed.

“The COVID-19 vaccine has very strict storage and usage protocols which we must follow. Every precaution is taken to ensure we use as much as we can,” the province said in statement.

“In rare instances, individuals may have cancelled their appointment or decided they need further guidance from their health-care provider about receiving the vaccine after the on-site discussion with the nurse.”

The province would not state how many vials were not entirely used — but noted the wastage is small compared to the hundreds of additional doses that are being squeezed out of the Pfizer-BioNTech vials.

“All vaccine programs must account for some loss when drawing doses, and the COVID-19 program is no different,” the province said.

“The small number of doses that may have been lost, due to these factors — combined with the manufacturer’s requirements — are within what is expected for an immunization campaign and more than made up for by the additional dose per vial that we have been able to draw and use.”

The province plans to vaccinate 1,300 health-care workers instead of 900 because vaccinators have been able to draw six doses from each vial instead of the expected five.

Public health officials said last week if a health-care worker cancels a vaccination appointment at the Bannatyne immunization clinic, it would be easy to find another worker to vaccinate at the nearby Health Sciences Centre.

Vaccinations this week are open to critical-care workers born before 1981, long-term care worker born before 1963, acute-care workers born before 1961 or any worker assigned to a COVID-19 immunization clinic.

In the new year, the province intends to vaccinate all health-care workers who deal directly with COVID-19 patients, residents of personal care homes, adults at risk in remote Indigenous communities and anyone aged 80 and over.