Down to the wire, Health Canada has extended the expiration date of thousands of AstraZeneca vaccine doses that were set to expire Monday — an initial deadline that had pharmacies packing in appointments to avoid spoilage.
In a statement Saturday, a spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Health Canada has granted authorization to extend the lifespan of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shots, increasing the expiry date from six to seven months.
The 11th-hour move comes after a review of “stability data,” according to spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene, and means doses set to expire on May 31 can now be used until July 1.
The change undoubtedly reduces the pressure on pharmacists across Ontario, who had been preparing vaccine blitzes to avoid wasting whole batches of shots, some of which were only distributed to pharmacies on Friday, giving them just 72 hours to administer the soon-to-expire doses.
“We are doing everything possible to get into arms before they expire,” Justin Bates, of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, wrote on Twitter Friday before the announced extension.
Ontario paused first-dose administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early May, following reports of rare but deadly blood clots. But the province is administering second doses for people who received a first dose between March 10 to March 19.