Alberta's health minister and chief medical officer of health say that a mere 0.3 per cent of vials have been wasted in Alberta so far during the COVID-19 vaccination process.

The province says a typical immunization process sees wastage of around six per cent. 

"Early on in planning for immunization, Alberta Health Services was asked to devise a strategy to ensure that the risk of vaccine wastage was minimized," read the joint statement released by Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw Tuesday morning .

"We are also exploring ways to further reduce wastage."

Hinshaw and Shandro say that doses are thawed and prepared according to pre-scheduled appointments.

"If a scenario arises where staff have no booked appointments left but there are thawed doses available, those administering the vaccines are able to vaccinate each other," the statement read. 

"The vaccine cannot be refrozen or put in a fridge."

AHS also confirmed a memo that was sent out to staff Dec. 31, instructing them not to try to preserve leftover vaccine.

There has been no wastage significant enough to impact immunization numbers. To date, 86 doses of the 26,216 doses administered have been considered wasted - only 0.3% per cent. For context, influenza vaccine annual wastage is usually between one and six per cent.

— Alberta Health Services (@AHS_media) January 5, 2021

"“It has been decided to ignore the undetermined leftover vaccine, do not attempt to extract an extra dose," the memo said.

Hinshaw  said in December one vial of Pfizer vaccine could carry five doses, with the possibility of a sixth, if carefully done.

AHS statement

"The memo in question is authentic and was sent to staff in Calgary zone only. AHS is committed to safely and effectively using all vaccines the way they are packaged for use. Regarding Pfizer vaccine specifically,when a sixth dose can be clearly and safely extracted staff are supported to do so. The intent of this memo was to provide staff with the confidence to use the vaccine as it is packaged for intended use (five doses) without the pressure to retrieve a sixth  dose if they felt a particular vial could not effectively provide one."

Shandro also tweeted on Tuesday that details surrounding pharmacists being part of the vaccine rollout will be made public in the coming weeks. He says they will be an integral part of vaccinating Albertans.

Shandro says nearly 57 per cent of the available doses have been used.

The province currently administering 3,000 doses daily, with five days' supply remaining, if administering at the current rate.

“I hope to see the daily number increase but I emphasize again, it depends on when the shipments come,” said Shandro.

Pharmacists hope to participate

Another 13,000 Pfizer vaccines will touch down in Alberta this week.

Some pharmacists are hoping to be part of a surge in vaccine administering.

“We’re ready, we’re really ready,” said Neilin Nazarali, owner of Seton Remedy’s RX Pharmacy.

“Pharmacists in Alberta have vaccinated over a million people for the flu shots, so just imagine how much quicker the process would be if the pharmacies got involved.”

Nazarali says her patients have already asked when they can be vaccinated.

“I’ve had patients call, and say ‘hey, can you put me on the wait list, can I be the first one when you get the vaccine and start vaccinating?’”

The first vaccines were administered on Dec. 15, 2020 and Tuesday marks three weeks since some health-care workers were immunized.

A government spokesperson says the province has yet to set out a firm schedule of when those who are already vaccinated, will receive a booster shot.

“We are looking at all available evidence, and considering options for the timing of the second dose,“ said Alberta health spokesperson Tom McMillan.

“But independent of what is decided going forward, any appointments already made for the second dose of vaccine will be honoured.”

As of Sunday, 22,861 people have been vaccinated in the province, from more than 46,000 doses.