Some pharmacies in Toronto have received doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after an earlier delay due to quality control issues, Ontario’s Ministry of Health said Thursday.
“Nearly 5,000 additional doses have completed quality control and are being delivered to Toronto pharmacies today, with another 12,000 doses expected to be cleared and delivered by tomorrow,” spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement, adding additional doses are still being reviewed.
She said the issue relates to the temperature of the vaccine doses that are being stored.
“Andlauer Healthcare Group is undertaking a quality assurance process to ensure maximum safety and efficacy of every single dose. This is standard procedure and no dose will be sent that isn’t deemed to be safe,” Hilkene said.
She also notes that Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Toronto and participating pharmacies and primary care providers in Kingston and Windsor have received around 26,600 doses of the vaccine.
This week, the province opened second-dose eligibility to those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca and more than 100 pharmacies in Toronto were slated to receive that supply.
Earlier in the day, Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) said pharmacies in Toronto that were supposed to receive the soon-to-be expired AstraZeneca vaccine doses had yet to receive that supply.
In a statement to Breakfast Television, the association’s CEO Justin Bates said he was told of the quality assurance delay but that it’s “challenging to plan resources if the pharmacies do not know the details of when the vaccine is arriving.”
“With the vaccine expiring on Monday, our runway is getting short,” Bates said.
The province said those who got their first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine between March 10 and March 19 are being prioritized to receive their second dose.
The recommended interval between AstraZeneca shots is at least 12 weeks, but the second injection is being offered to the first group of recipients after 10 weeks in Ontario to use up the province’s stockpile.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to rare, potentially fatal blood clots, prompting several provinces to recently limit its use as they await further research. Ontario has since said it will use the vaccine as a second dose only.
Ontario is scrambling to use some 45,000 AstraZeneca shots by the end of May, with another 10,000 set to expire in June. The province currently has more than 300,000 doses in stock.