$680 million for expired doses: millions of anti-COVID vaccines in the trash
At least 32 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been wasted or are about to be wasted in the country. A loss that represents $680 million, according to the compilation made by our Bureau of Investigation.
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In the vast majority of cases, these are expired doses that could not be used in time.
The federal government alone disposed of 22.5 million expired doses, which it kept in its central stockpile.
The first doses of vaccines against COVID-19 in Quebec arrived on this plane on December 13, 2020, at Mirabel airport.
The provinces, for their part, threw away at least 5.3 million doses, including 1.13 million by Quebec. These are partial data, since some provinces, such as Ontario, refused to disclose their losses.
We must add to this table 4.5 million doses about to expire, made overwhelmed by the arrival this fall of the new bivalent vaccine, effective against the Omicron variant.
For the virologist and professor of the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) Benoît Barbeau, these significant losses are the consequence of the massive orders of vaccines placed by Ottawa.
« The government has over-ordered [des vaccins]particularly after the administration of the first and second doses,” he explains.
According to him, we knew then that the virus was likely to mutate and that new versions of the vaccines would be available, such as the bivalent vaccine launched this fall.
“There was then an adjustment [dans les commandes] which would have been necessary to carry out », he maintains.
Recall that at the end of 2020, the Trudeau government had placed purchase options for 358 million doses of vaccine, or 9.5 doses per Canadian.
Canada did not buy all of these doses, but it was the country in the world that took the most vaccine purchase options per capita.
Professor Barbeau nevertheless points out that the COVID-19 pandemic remains an exceptional event.
“It is better, very unfortunately, in these moments, to go in this direction [en achetant trop de vaccins] than in the other direction,” he says.
However, the fact remains that the costs of these vaccine losses will be major. According to our estimate, the bill will reach at least $680 million.
This figure is calculated from the number of doses discarded and the unit price per dose paid by Ottawa, obtained from various sources by The newspaper last spring.
When asked about this, Health Canada refused to disclose the price paid per dose to major international manufacturers, citing the fact that it is “confidential commercial information”.
- Alberta: 2.1M
- Manitoba: 75,000
- Federal Reserve: 22.5M
- Saskatchewan: 348,000
- Quebec: 1.13M
- British Columbia: 1.6M
Sources: Public Health Agency of Canada, Ministries of Health of Quebec and British Columbia, Global News. Data from other provinces are not available.
- Listen to the interview with Dr Joanne Liu, professor at the School of Population and Mental Health at McGill University and former president of Doctors Without Borders on Yasmine Abdelfadel’s show broadcast live every day at 1:35 p.m. via QUB-radio :
Avoidable losses with donations abroad
It is clear, for the organization Médecins sans frontières and for the opposition to the Commons, that part of this waste of vaccines could have been avoided.
The solution would have been to send more doses and more quickly to disadvantaged countries that were in dire need of vaccines when they became available.
« The Trudeau government has spoken out of both sides of its mouth on this issue, » said Adam Houston, Advocacy and Medical Policy Officer at Doctors Without Borders Canada.
At the start of the pandemic, in the summer of 2020, Justin Trudeau presented himself as an ardent defender of the international vaccine exchange mechanism, called COVAX.
Well stocked reserves
However, Houston recalls, it took a year, in July 2021, when Ottawa had well-stocked supplies, enough to administer the vaccination twice to every Canadian, to start sending doses overseas. .
Pierre Paul-Hus. Conservative Party of Canada
And again, these were AstraZeneca vaccines that were about to expire and no longer wanted in Canada because of their side effects.
A large number of these vaccines, 13.6 million doses in total, had to be destroyed for lack of takers abroad.
For Mr. Houston, management focused on faster and more efficient shipment of vaccines abroad could have reduced the waste that occurred in Canada.
The Conservative Party in Ottawa shares this point of view.
« It is unthinkable that so many vaccines against COVID-19 that could have benefited from other countries with lower vaccination rates should have been thrown away, » said MP Pierre Paul-Hus, the party’s political lieutenant for Quebec. .
In his view, this is « another example of our federal government’s poor planning and management. »