Staff with the Northwestern Health Unit say rumours that doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being wasted are false.

COVID-19 vaccines have a limited shelf life after thawing, meaning those who don’t make their scheduled appointments at mass vaccination clinics can lead to leftover doses of the vaccine by the end of the day.

Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young-Hoon, says at this point no vaccines have been wasted in our area, but she explained how wastage could occur.

“A vial of the vaccine has 10 doses in it and we plan our clinics accordingly. When no-shows happen, we have a list of eligible populations that we call so that each dose is used,” she explained during her weekly conference with regional media.

“In theory, the most spots that we’d ever have to fill is 9. We would not open a new vial if we did not have people to use it. Our staff are very committed to ensuring there is no wastage of the vaccine.”

On March 31, Manitoba’s Long Plain First Nation in the Portage la Prairie area opened their clinics to those outside of their community to avoid wasting doses of the vaccine. However, Manitoba’s First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team put a stop to the clinic by the end of the day.

You’re asked to not book a vaccine in a different location if there are no appointments available in your home community, to continue to avoid non-essential travel to other communities.

The No Frills Pharmacy in Kenora, Shoppers Drug Mart in Dryden, the Pharmasave in Fort Frances and about 700 other pharmacies in the province are now able to provide the shot. Appointments can be booked through your local pharmacy directly.

As of April 7, anyone born in 1961 or earlier can book their vaccine appointment through the NWHU. Young-Hoon does note that many of April’s bookings are full after the expansion of eligibility, which includes:

• Health Care Workers, including staff who work in congregate living settings
• Adult Home Care Recipients
• Faith leaders who provide end-of-life care, care of the deceased, funerals, home visits to unwell persons, or pastoral care in hospitals, LTCH, etc.
• Indigenous adults, including Metis aged 18+ (and their household members)

Those with the following health conditions:
• Organ transplant recipients;
• Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients;
• People with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised (e.g., motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis);
• Haematological malignancy diagnosed less than one year ago;
• Sickle cell disease;
• Kidney disease eGFR< 30; and • Essential caregivers for individuals in the groups listed above

Anyone who is in the groups listed above must fill out the NWHU’s registration form to then receive a booking code and instructions from the Ministry of Health. You can find information on how to book an appointment HERE.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case is asked to self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.