The Ontario government said Saturday certain lots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that were set to expire on May 31 can now be used past their original expiry date following authorization by Health Canada.
“Health Canada has issued an authorization to extend the expiry date of specific lots of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from six months to seven months, following the review of submitted stability data,” said Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary to the minister of health.
Hilkene said vaccines that were set to expire May 31 can now be used until July 1.
Health Canada said it made the decision to help use up existing doses and stressed the move is backed by scientific evidence.
The federal department said the vaccine manufacturer made a submission earlier this week which supported extending the expiry date for two lots of vaccine.
It says that submission included “stability and mathematical modelling data” that showed the doses would still be safe and effective for seven months rather than the original six.
“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,” Health Canada said in a statement.
The head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association said Health Canada’s decision is not unprecedented when it comes to evolving data associated with a new vaccine.
“It’s good news,” Justin Bates said. “Although I do appreciate this is going to create a lot more questions … so people can continue to make an informed consent decision.”
Bates said pharmacies in different parts of Ontario had ramped up efforts to get shots into arms and avoid wasting any doses, and those efforts will continue.
“It does give us a longer runway and reduces the risk of any (waste), which I think is a good thing and that’s the silver lining in all of this,” he said.
NEW: Health Canada approves extending AstraZeneca expiry date from May 31st to July 1 "following a review of stability data." It means Ontario's AZ doses, set to expire this Monday, are no longer at risk of spoilage. #onpoli
— Cynthia Mulligan (@CityCynthia) May 29, 2021
The province started offering it for second shots to people who received the dose between March 10 and March 19 at pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor and Kingston, and at some primary care offices.
Approximately 90,000 people participated in the AstraZeneca pilot between March 10 and March 19. Many eager vaccine recipients reported frustration this week when trying to book second doses at pharmacies that were still waiting on delayed supply.
“Acceleration of AstraZeneca second doses will be continued with a 12-week interval, dependent on vaccine supply, with booking eligibility based on the date of the first dose,” Hilkene said Saturday. “AstraZeneca doses will be distributed across the province to be available for individuals at the 12-week interval.”
The province paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month due to an increase in reports of rare but deadly blood clots.