Thousands of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines expiring next week were still undergoing quality checks in Ontario on Thursday, as pharmacists set to administer the doses expressed frustration over the delay.
A stockpile of 45,000 doses expires Monday, while 10,000 more expire at the end of June. The province said about 5,000 were to be sent out later Thursday, another 12,000 were to be cleared Friday and others were still under review.
A spokeswoman for the health minister said the quality checks were needed because storage data for some of the doses was incomplete.
“No dose will be sent that isn’t deemed to be safe,” said Alexandra Hilkene.
Ontario stopped giving out first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month after saying it was linked to an increased risk of a rare but serious blood clotting disorder.
The province started offering second shots of the vaccine this week — at a 10-week dosing interval — to the first batch of AstraZeneca recipients in order to use up the doses that expire soon.
Ontarians who received the vaccine between March 10 and March 19 in Kingston, Windsor and Toronto are eligible to book second doses — though just 162 of the original 325 sites are participating this time around.
Approximately 90,000 people participated in the AstraZeneca pilot during that time frame. Many have reported issues and frustration with booking second appointments.
Approximately 26,600 soon-to-expire AstraZeneca doses had been sent out as of Thursday morning, Hilkene said.
The distribution delay largely affected Toronto pharmacies, according to the head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.
Justin Bates said five Toronto sites and those in Kingston and Windsor received doses earlier in the week, but 99 pharmacies in Toronto were still waiting.
Those still set to receive doses were also informed their shipments would be smaller than anticipated, with more possibly coming on Friday, Bates said. Some were forced cancel appoints and change staff schedules, with less time to get through the doses before the end of the day on Monday.