Ontario Was attempting to redistribute a stockpile of 45,000 shots

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Ontario received permission from Health Canada to expand the expiry of a few doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday, saving tens of thousands of shots from potentially going to waste.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the change means doses with an original expiry of May 31 can currently be used until July 1.

“Health Canada has issued an authorization to extend the expiry date of specific lots of this AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from six months to seven months, following the review of filed equilibrium information,” Alexandra Hilkene said in an announcement.

Pharmacies and physicians offices were rushing to take thousands of shots this weekend before their past Monday expiry date to avoid squandering doses.

Ontario had been trying to redistribute a stockpile of 45,000 shots expiring on May 31 and 10,000 more likely bad in June.

However quality checks held up the shipping of thousands of the shots, and many didn’t reach their final destinations until Friday.

The head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association said Health Canada’s decision is not unprecedented in regards to evolving data associated with a brand new vaccine.

“It’s good news,” Justin Bates stated. “Although I really do appreciate this will create a lot more questions… so people can continue to produce an informed consent decision”

Bates said pharmacies in different parts of Ontario had awakened efforts to acquire shots into arms and avoid wasting any doses, and these efforts will continue.

“It does give us a more runway and lessens the danger of any (waste), which I presume is a fantastic thing and that is the silver lining in all this,” he explained.

The province stopped the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine before this month because of an increase in reports of rare but deadly blood clots. It began offering it again as another shot to folks who obtained the dose between March 10 and March 19 in pharmacies at Toronto, Windsor and Kingston, and at some primary care offices.

Approximately 90,000 people participated in an AstraZeneca pilot between March 10 and March 19.

The province said 148,972 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the past 24 hours for a total of over 8.8 million doses issued within the course of this immunization effort.

Ontario reported 1,057 new instances of COVID-19 on Saturday and 15 more deaths linked to the virus.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s COVID-19 science table stated Saturday that the province could re-open schools safely on a regional basis while still restricting the probability of further virus transmission.

The new information comes in reaction to Premier Doug Ford’s request for input on whether the state should reopen schools as instances trend downward across the province.

The group said some regions could reopen based on the recommendation of local medical officers of health and continued adherence to public health measures.

“We think that Ontario can re-open schools safely on a regional basis to mitigate the significant short and long-term injuries arising from college closures, while managing the risk of virus transmission in this industry,” the group said in a letter to Ford released Saturday.

The state closed schools in April since COVID-19 cases jumped and Ford has said he wants a consensus on the problem from stakeholders prior to making a determination.

Ford wrote to those specialists and education stakeholders Thursday, giving them a day and a half to respond to a series of queries on the possible reopening of classrooms for in-person learning.

The premier has said he does not want to rely solely on the advice of the province’s top public health officer, Dr. David Williams, who believes students should come back to the classroom.

“I know quite clearly where Dr. Williams stands,” Ford said Friday. “However, I want the scientists to consider in. I would like to be sure the teachers’ unions consider in. I want other educational employees to weigh in. I really don’t want to rush this.”

The science table stated in Saturday’s report that the closure may be harming some pupils’ physical and psychological health and reopening would allow schools to re-establish contact with teachers and peers.

“This deterioration is now evident in the kind of increased healthcare use and hospital admissions, most poignantly for kids and youth with eating disorders,” the report said.

“We believe these psychological health indicators represent the tip of the iceberg and children and youth mental health will present substantial long-term challenges during our recovery in the pandemic.”

The science table recently said reopening schools could lead to COVID-19 situation rates to climb between six and 11 per cent.

However, the group said Saturday it currently considers that the consequent case increases from re-opening schools would be small and many public health units believe they can manage those gains.

“Schools that re-open should keep their public health measures vigorously and assemble on the strategies they’ve already deployed to restrict disperse,” they stated.

The group also called on the province to use the summer to improve school ventilation and continue efforts to vaccinate students.

The correspondence from the province’s science advisers was co-signed by 10 other classes including the Ontario Medical Association, The Hospital For Sick Children and the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health.

This report by The Canadian Press was published May 29, 2021.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press