The supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario pharmacies is quickly draining as officials hope for an injection of supply from south of the border.
With Ontario’s decision to open AstraZeneca appointments to those aged 40 and older last week, demand for the shot has sapped the province’s existing stock, according to the head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.
“We’re certainly seeing more demand and it’s outpacing the supply,” OPA chief Justin Bates told Global News on Monday.
Most, if not all, of the roughly 1,400 pharmacies in Ontario currently distributing AstraZeneca will run out of their supply of the vaccine by the middle or end of the week, Bates projected.
With the United States’ announcement Monday that it will share 60 million AstraZeneca doses to other countries, as it has done to Canada in the past, Bates said there’s some hope that some of those doses could flow up to Ontario.
“But right now, we have no certainty. So it’s likely there will be an interruption of supply,” he said.
Canada is already set to receive 1.95 million vaccine doses this week: about one million of Pfizer, roughly 650,000 of Moderna and an initial shipment of 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses.
Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health, told Global News in a statement Monday that the province isn’t currently expecting a new shipment of AstraZeneca until the end of May. She put the existing supply of AstraZeneca in Ontario at 245,000 doses.
With such a tight stock, Ontario will keep its age cutoff for AstraZeneca for the 40-plus population, despite confirmation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization last week that the vaccine is safe to offer to those aged 30 and older.
Bates said the pharmacists association is in talks with the Ontario government to launch a pilot program later this week that would see the Pfizer vaccine distributed at a select few pharmacies in Ontario to prove out the supply chain. Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that news Monday.
While the Pfizer vaccine comes with more rigorous cold storage requirements than the AstraZeneca vaccine, Bates said markets in the U.S. and other provinces have shown pharmacies can handle the extra logistical hurdles.
“We have the capabilities and infrastructure to manage it,” he said.
— With reporting from Abigail Bimman
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