Waterloo Region's plan to use Moderna vaccine doses before they expire

Thousands of Moderna vaccine doses will expire in the first week of August, and there’s growing concern that those shots will go to waste.

“It’s really a race against the clock,” says Justin Bates, the president of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “We know demand is declining. It’s declining because the majority of Ontarians have received the first dose, and we have a very high percentage of people who have received the second dose.”

Also a challenge, especially at this stage of the vaccine rollout, is many people would prefer getting the Pfizer shot. For many, it’s because that’s what they were given at the first time around.

Another complication with the Moderna vaccine is that each vial contain several doses. As soon as one vial is opened, all the dosses need to be used within hours.

“Once you puncture the vial, there’s 14 doses in those vials that we’ve received from the U.S.,” says Bates. “That the majority of the Moderna [vaccine] that’s in the pharmacy channel today. So if someone cancels their appointment or we don’t have the demand, then some of the doses in that vial may go to waste because you only have 12 hours post-puncture before they spoil.”

Kelly Grindrod, the pharmacy lead for Waterloo Region’s vaccine task force, says 1,000 Moderna doses have already been moved from pharmacies to the Pinebush Vaccination Clinic. More are also on the way.

The Pinebush location is now offering both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, giving people the chance to get the same vaccine for their second shot as they received for their first.

Grindrod says the larger Moderna vials are also proving a challenge for pharmacies.

However they’ve been getting creative in their efforts not to waste doses, from putting up road signs, calling nearby businesses, using social media sites like Vaccine Hunters, or even reaching out to patients individually.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit has also raised concerns. It has more than 21,000 doses of Moderna that could expire in the next couple weeks.

In response, the provincial government says public health units are working to keep vaccine wastage to a minimum and are encouraging walk-ins when appropriate. Adding that they are also working with federal partners to explore future vaccination donation opportunities.