As interest in COVID-19 vaccine plummets, doses of Moderna could expire at Waterloo region's pharmacies
'They have to use these doses or these doses will be wasted,' says Kelly Grindrod
Pharmacies in Waterloo region are playing a waiting game with hundreds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine set to expire in the coming weeks, says Kelly Grindrod.
Grindrod, a pharmacist and associate professor at the school of pharmacy at the University of Waterloo, says local pharmacies brought in hundreds of doses of Moderna in early July when the number of COVID-19 cases were high and public health officials were urging people to get the vaccine.
"[Pharmacists] were doing dozens to well over 100 doses a day in the early part of July. So they have [the vaccine] sitting in the fridge and then the number just plummeted. Interest just plummeted with very little notice," Grindrod said.
"What you've got is a whole bunch of pharmacies who have dozens, hundreds of doses in their fridges, that expire after a month in the fridge. So that means that they have to use these doses or these doses will be wasted."
The issue appears to impact pharmacies as the Region of Waterloo says it does not currently have any Moderna doses set to expire in the near future.
People still turning down Moderna
Grindrod says part of the reason doses are sitting in fridges is because the region has hit a plateau. As of Tuesday, 80 per cent of people 12 and up had received a first dose, while 59.78 per cent have their second dose.
Another reason, though, is people's hesitancy to get the Moderna vaccine. Grindrod says she's heard of situations where people have called to make a vaccine appointment, heard it was the Moderna vaccine, and cancelled because they say they want the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Uptake of the Moderna vaccine has been a struggle in the region, even though health officials have said there's no real difference between the two vaccines except Moderna travels better and doesn't need super cold fridges. For some people, they recognized the brand name of Pfizer and that's why they opted to wait for it, officials have said.
Two recent events, though, have impacted Moderna even more, Grindrod says. A recent incorrect headline where a quote from the chief scientist for the World Health Organization was misinterpreted has caused some to question whether it's OK to mix and match vaccines. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said people can mix vaccines, and in particular Moderna and Pfizer, because they both use a similar mRNA technology.
People also had concerns after a story about how people were unable to go to Barbados if they had a mix of two vaccines — a situation that was resolved within a day of Canadian media reporting about it. The government in Barbados announced July 16 it would "allow for travellers with mixed vaccines to be categorized as fully vaccinated."
"A lot of the people who are coming in for first doses or second doses right now tell us specifically they're doing it to get back to traveling. And so even the hint that these mixed regimens weren't going to be accepted seemed to be enough to just really extinguish that demand for Moderna," Grindrod said. "It's been a real struggle where we have a lot of Moderna, people don't want to mix. People are calling often looking for Pfizer."
Grindrod says she's heard from other pharmacists in the region who have taken calls from people looking to get their first or second dose.
"They have people calling them looking for vaccine, but turning down Moderna even though they could get it that day," she said. "It's a real struggle."
12 new cases
Region of Waterloo Public Health reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. It's the lowest number of cases since a one-day dip on July 6. Before July 6, the last time the region reported a daily case number under 15 was in October.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 18,211 cases in Waterloo region, of which 17,756 have been marked as resolved.
There were 164 active cases in the community Tuesday.
There was one death of a person with the virus reported, a man in his 50s. That brought the total number of COVID-related deaths in the region to 281.
There were 23 people in the region's three hospitals, a drop of four from the previous day, with 13 of those people in the intensive care unit.
The number of active outbreaks rose by two to 12:
- Workplace: Six.
- Child care/summer camp: Three.
- Hospital: Two.
- Congregate setting: One.