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COVID-19: What happens to unused vaccine doses in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia?

Residents over 70 in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are eligible for vaccination — with appointments at clinics filling up fast.

“They’re excited to get their vaccines,” says Jake Reid, executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists Association.

“People are crying when they go see their pharmacist because they’re relieved to be getting their first dose.”

Appointments can be booked in either province online or over the phone.

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Reid says he hasn’t seen that pose any problems in New Brunswick yet — but says there have been instances of residents calling around to book their shot and ending up with multiple appointments.

In that case — or for a host of reasons ranging from car troubles to unrelated medical issues — some appointments end up missed, and the vaccine doses set aside need to be reallocated before they expire.

“Every pharmacy has to have a contingency plan,” Reid says.

“So they’ve got a waiting list of people in priority groups and if there’s someone who doesn’t show up or needs to cancel, they can go to their emergency list.”

Once doses are thawed, they’re only viable for a number of hours.

Globally, there have been doses that have to be discarded, though, either because no one was there to get the shot or because of mishandling.

Exact numbers on how many have gone to waste in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have not been made available, despite efforts by Global News to get that data from either province.

New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says that as far as she knows, no doses have been thrown out due to mishandling.

She also says wastage numbers in general are very low.

Similar reports come from Nova Scotia.

“The amount of COVID-19 vaccine wastage is very low in Nova Scotia,” says Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson Marla MacInnis.

“In cases where an appointment is missed or vaccine is available at the end of the day, the direction is that the clinic staff work with the schedulers and make every effort to ensure that someone is vaccinated from within the priority groups.”

Click to play video: New Brunswick to get as many people vaccinated amid outbreak

Reid says if no one on the waitlist was able to make it in before time was up, staff could offer the shot to any shopper at pharmacy regardless of them being in a priority group.

“In an extreme example, absolutely,” he says.

“There’s no way we want to see a dose of a vaccine go in the garbage because at the end of the day that could be saving someone’s life.”

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