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Experts call on Canada to use COVAX doses of AstraZeneca or give them back

Last Updated May 14, 2021 at 2:54 pm EDT

FILE - In this file photo dated Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, Doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID-19 sit in vials at the Fiocruz Foundation after being bottled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The World Health Organization Monday Feb. 15, 2021, granted an emergency authorization to the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca, a move that should allow its partners to ship millions of doses to countries worldwide as part of a U.N.-backed program to stop the pandemic.(AP Photo/Bruna Prado, FILE)

OTTAWA — Some health experts are questioning Canada’s decision to accept thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from a global vaccine-sharing alliance, only to have them sit in freezers in an Ontario warehouse.

More than 655,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which most provinces have now decided against using first doses, arrived in Canada through the COVAX initiative Thursday.

It is the time vaccines have been delivered to Canada without immediately being distributed to provinces and territories, because Ottawa isn’t yet clear who wants them.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is managing vaccine logistics for the federal government, said Thursday the Public Health Agency of Canada is waiting for provinces to put in their orders for those doses before sending them out.

But most provinces have now decided to stop giving AstraZeneca as a first dose and are still mulling whether to give it as second dose or offer to get their second dose using either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Dr. Irfan Dhalla, an internal medicine specialist in Toronto, says it is unconscionable to sit on those doses and the choice must be made immediately to use them or send them to countries that will.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press