Those arrivals are set to come as several provinces have paused the use of the vaccine over extremely rare blood clots that can occur in some individuals after getting the shot, but as global demand for vaccines remains high and cases continue to soar around the world.
“What do we do with them if they’re not going to go into new arms?” asked Global’s Mike Le Couteur, guest host of The West Block, to Anand, who said that discussion is underway.
“We have committed to donating excess doses,” Anand said.
“Our prime minister has mentioned this, I have, and [International Development Minister Karina] Gould and [Health Minister Patty] Hajdu are all on the same page in terms of the need to donate excess doses that Canadians aren’t using, so we are thinking of all of the options relating to any excess doses.”
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Ontario and Alberta paused the use of the vaccine as a first dose option last week.
People who have already received their first dose of AstraZeneca may be able to get it as their second dose in those provinces, but details remain unclear as deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines ramp up across the country.
The decisions came both amid a decline in supply of AstraZeneca over the next few weeks, and after weeks of questions about a very rare form of blood clots that can occur after getting the shot.
Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenic (VITT) can occur in roughly one in 100,000 people getting the shot, though the number has shifted several times as the vaccine is rolled out around the world.
It typically occurs between day four and 28 after the vaccine and the clots can be detected in medical tests, and tested if caught early. If ignored, the clots can lead to death.
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But the vaccine remains highly effective in preventing severe symptoms, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, which are far more common than the rare side effects, and the vaccine has been the cornerstone of the United Kingdom’s efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Canada has administered roughly 2.3 million doses of AstraZeneca so far, but is contracted to receive a total of 20 million doses, leaving a question mark hanging around the future of the 17 million doses still set to arrive in the country in the coming months.
“We’ll have more to say on the question of donations in the future,” Anand said.
So far, approximately half of Canadian adults have received a first dose of a coronoavirus vaccine.
That number needs to rise to 75 per cent with 20 per cent getting their second dose before restrictions can begin to lift to allow outdoor activities this summer, public health officials said last week.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the government needs an “all hands on deck” approach to make sure everyone is able to access those vaccines as they become available.
“We need to see the people that are most at risk getting the vaccine, which has not been the case,” he said. “The most vulnerable communities are often those that have the least vaccination.”
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