Canada is to throw out about 13.6m doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine because it couldn’t find any takers for it either at home or abroad.
Canada signed a contract with AstraZeneca in 2020 to get 20m doses of its vaccine, and 2.3 million Canadians received at least one dose of it, mostly between March and June 2021.
Following concerns in the first half of 2021 about rare but potentially fatal blood clots caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine, Canada focused on using its ample supplies of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
It comes as many European countries experience a significant surge in new Covid infections, and experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer.
New cases are on the rise in Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark due to the more infectious new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. Covid infection levels in the UK have risen by more than 30% in a week.
“The pandemic is accelerating again,” Dr Benjamin Davido, an infectious diseases specialist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital outside Paris, said. “It is vital that we maintain stable immunity through booster shots.”
In July 2021, Canada promised to donate the rest of its procured supply, about 17.7m doses. But on Tuesday, Health Canada said that despite efforts to meet that pledge, 13.6m doses have expired and will have to be thrown out.
“Due to limited demand for the vaccine and recipient country challenges with distribution and absorption, they were not accepted,” it said.
In all, Canada donated 8.9m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – 4.8m doses from its main supply and 4.1m doses that it bought from the Covax vaccine-sharing program.
About 85% of Canadians are considered fully vaccinated, compared with 61% of the world’s population and just 16% of people living in the world’s poorest countries.
With Associated Press