Hundreds of Moderna vaccines are expected to expire in local pharmacies in the coming weeks as the demand for vaccines continues to drop and people reject Moderna according to the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
“We are trying to work with them (pharmacies) where possible to utilize their supplies to avoid wastage but we know that there will be wastage locally,” said Rita Isley, community health chief nursing officer at WDG Public Health.
Isley attributed a number of factors that play a role in Moderna vaccines headed to the trash that include a nearing expiration date, decreasing demand for vaccines in general and a preference for the Pfizer vaccines in the community.
Pharmacies get vaccines directly from the province and are not distributed by WDG Public Health in the region. Collectively, pharmacies have administered over 18 per cent of total vaccine doses to the eligible population in the WDG Public Health region.
Isley said it appears that pharmacies across the province have Moderna vaccines with a shorter expiration date.
“I can tell you it could be hundreds or more. Could be thousands,” said Isley.
Expiring Moderna vaccines in pharmacies is also an issue in the Waterloo Region.
Isley said WDG Public Health noticed that residents have generally been more inclined toward the Pfizer vaccine and are rejecting Moderna vaccines.
“There's some miscommunication or misunderstanding the effectiveness or the safety of Moderna. Essentially Pfizer and Maderna are both mRNA vaccines and therefore pretty much the same vaccine, just different manufacturers,” said Isley.
“Pfizer is sort of that popular vaccine and there's really no scientific support behind that. This is just a matter of public preference.”
Isley said a large percentage of the population is willing to mix the vaccines but there are some people who just don’t want the Moderna vaccine. She also explained an issue of supply and demand when people return for their second vaccine.
“One of the biggest issues is that right now, we're doing second doses and we didn't receive a lot of Moderna until the last two weeks in June. So, some places we're vaccinating in November and December. So from November right through until June, we had dribs and drabs of Moderna and so when we go to do the second dose, people don't want to do that mix and match and they want to have the same vaccine as their first vaccine,” said Isley.
Isley said to prevent the wastage of Moderna vaccines, WDG Public Health is taking unused Moderna vaccines from the pharmacies to use for residents who booked appointments to receive Moderna doses in their clinics.
“Some of the pharmacies that have large supplies of the vaccine have the Moderna vaccine that's going to expire. We're going to take it back and use it in our clinics for the purpose of not letting it expire,” said Isley, adding that Moderna vaccines in their clinics still have several months before they expire.
“Even if we don't locally have as big of an issue as other places, it's still important for us to treat the vaccine with respect, and the value that it has right now.”
Isley said while Pfizer vaccines are not going to waste right now, she anticipates they will because Moderna vaccines are distributed in vials of 14 doses and Pfizer vaccines in vials of six.
“When you look at that, if you're running small clinics or you have small populations that you need to vaccinate, you have to try and gather those 14 people or the six people. Obviously, it’s easier to gather six than it is to gather 14,” said Isley.
“In the future in the next couple of weeks, I anticipate we will have to be very creative to avoid wastage because it is a very valuable item that we don't want to waste but there may be circumstances in which it is going to be impossible to not waste it.”