With thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses set to expire by the end of this month, the federal government and provinces are looking for ways to swiftly get them in people’s arms before they are forced to toss them out.
As of April 14, more than 14 million doses were sitting in the central vaccine inventory, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Among those, 429,450 doses of the Moderna vaccine will expire by the end of April, PHAC told Global News in an email on Tuesday.
Already, some 759,948 expired Moderna doses were wasted last month after expiring on March 21.
To minimize more wastage, the federal agency says it has a few options on its hands, including transferring doses between jurisdictions, donating vaccines and reviewing for any pending shelf life extensions.
Health Canada has revised expiration dates multiple times in the last year, as the companies that make the vaccines were able to get better data on how long the vaccines remained viable.
Pfizer’s shelf life was extended from six months to nine months last summer, and Moderna’s from seven months to nine months in December.
“If the shelf life of the doses cannot be extended, they will be disposed of appropriately,” PHAC said.
Provinces say vaccine wastage has been minimal so far, but with a slower uptake of booster shots amid a sixth wave, experts are concerned that not enough is being done to get the available doses into Canadian arms.
“We are allowing them to expire without even making an effort to move them forward and we’re not being transparent about it,” said Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto.
“We need to make a clear decision as to what we need now and we need a management plan, which we have not seen,” he told Global News.
Donations are one option to manage the supply Canadians are not using.
As part of the WHO-led COVAX vaccine sharing facility, Canada has pledged to donate 38 million doses from its own domestic supplies, and another 13 million from doses Canada bought for itself from COVAX but didn’t need.
So far, Canada has only donated 15 million, but demand has fallen this year as supplies to the COVAX pool exceeded the ability of countries to get doses into arms.
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Bowman criticized Canada for falling short on its promises to help low-income countries, saying it “has not been a priority for Canada”.
While wastage in any vaccination campaign is not uncommon as more doses are ordered than needed, the waste during the COVID-19 pandemic has been “a bit higher than normal,” said Dr. Dasantila Golemi-Kotra, an associate professor of microbiology at York University.
She blamed government miscalculation, problematic public health messaging, COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy for the low uptake that is resulting in doses left unused.
“There is a need and the efforts have to be made to tell the public that we are not done with the virus.”
Thousands of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses risk expiring, going to waste
Where do provinces stand?
Global News reached out to all 10 provinces and three territories and asked about their current vaccine stockpile, how many doses have been wasted and how they were planning to manage the supply.
Here is what they had to say.
Quebec currently has approximately 3.8 million doses of different COVID-19 vaccines. Some 120,000 doses will expire in May, and another 672,000 in June, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) told Global News.
By the end of March 2022, 107,501 doses, of mostly Moderna, were destroyed as they had passed the expiration date, Robert Maranda, MSSS spokesperson, said.
Manitoba has roughly 320,000 COVID-19 doses in stock at its provincial warehouse, which are due to expire in May through August 2022, a provincial spokesperson said.
Since the start of Manitoba’s COVID-19 immunization program, wastage has been limited to two per cent.
“Immunization providers in Manitoba order only enough COVID-19 vaccines to meet current demands,” the spokesperson told Global News in an email.
The province began contributing vaccines for redistribution in late July 2021, said a spokesperson for Manitoba’s Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services Minister Reg Helwer.
As of early March, more than 182,000 doses had been provided by Manitoba for federal redistribution.
In Saskatchewan, as of April 18, there were approximately 300,000 doses in the provincial inventory, with expiry dates ranging between April 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023.
To date, 2.4 per cent or 71,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been wasted due to expiry out of 3,002,735 total doses received in the province, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health said.
“The province anticipates minimal wastage from the current inventory potentially due to vaccine exceeding storage time allowances for refrigerated conditions and punctured vials, as well as exceeding the product expiry date,” the ministry told Global News in an email.
To mitigate vaccine wastage, Saskatchewan has been redistributing doses within the province, offering to other jurisdictions or releasing back to the federal government, the ministry said.
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As for Prince Edward Island, there are currently 37,000 doses of mRNA vaccines, which will expire in late 2022, and mid-2023.
The province anticipates that less than 100 doses of vaccine will expire later this month, according to Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I’s chief public health officer.
“We will be exploring options in neighboring provinces to reallocate expiring doses to see if they can be used before their expiry date,” she told Global News.
“Some wastage is difficult to avoid given the demand for some vaccines is very low (e.g., AstraZeneca and Janssen),” Morrison said, adding that the province aims to keep wastage to a minimum.
“In the coming months, we do not foresee any other vaccine wastage, due to product expiry.”
Approximately 10% of COVID-19 vaccines wasted or expired: Alberta Health
In Alberta, to date, approximately 13 per cent of the doses that the province has received from the federal government have been wasted or expired.
“Some wastage is inevitable with the current COVID vaccines, as unused doses from multi-use vials must be discarded after 12 hours, and we are supplying more than 1,000 locations across the province in order to maximize access and help get more Albertans vaccinated,” Alberta Health told Global News.
“A large number of locations serving relatively small numbers of patients each day per site means more wastage,” the emailed statement added.
Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, did not provide any data about its current vaccine supply and wasted doses.
In an emailed response to Global News, Bill Campbell, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health said: “We continue to monitor and ensure vaccines are focused in areas of need while also working with our federal partners to explore opportunities to donate additional vaccine doses.”
Vaccine data transparency
Despite multiple requests, Global News did not get a response from British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick by the time of publication.
Experts say there should be greater transparency when it comes to disclosing vaccine information.
Both Bowman and Golemi-Kotra suspect the secrecy with wastage numbers stems from provinces not wanting to look bad.
“It doesn’t reflect well on the provinces that so much of these vaccines were acquired, and yet many were left unused,” said Golemi-Kotra.
Ontario won’t say how many AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are at risk of expiring
Bowman said Canadians have a right to know how much the government paid for the vaccines and what the disposed doses are going to cost.
He believes disclosing this information could in fact help bolster the vaccinations campaign and increase uptake.
— with files from The Canadian Press
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Firing Bank of Canada head would spark global ‘shock wave’: ex-budget watchdog – Global News
If any Canadian government were to fire the head of the Bank of Canada, the result would be a “global financial shock wave,” warned the country’s former budget watchdog.
In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the Bank of Canada’s reputation is one as a “strong” and “transparent” institution.
“We’ve gotten used to, over the past three decades, having an independent central bank that is independent — making decisions on these policy interest rates that is divorced from the political environment,” said Page, now president and CEO of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.
“It would be quite a shock wave, a global financial shock wave, to have a government literally remove a central banker who, by all intents, seems to be doing a fine job — but is doing a very difficult job.”
Page had been asked what the effects could be if a Canadian government were to fire a central banker.
That comes as Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has been leading a campaign of criticism centring on the Bank of Canada’s handling of rampant inflation, which sits at 6.7 per cent.
The domestic target is two per cent per year.
As part of his criticism of the central bank, Poilievre has vowed that he would fire Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, if elected prime minister. That comment triggered rapid criticism over concerns it signalled an intent by the perceived leadership frontrunner to interfere with the bank.
Long-standing tradition is that the Bank of Canada operates independently of political decisions, with governors appointed on seven-year terms.
Officials have emphasized that those longer terms are what allows them to operate with a “measure of continuity over economic cycles — not electoral cycles — and allows for decision making that considers the long-term economic interests of Canadians.”
The Bank of Canada has opted to keep interest rates at rock-bottom during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is among the factors experts say have fuelled skyrocketing home prices. And as inflation keeps pushing the cost of living higher and higher, critics of the central bank like Poilievre have pointed the finger and argued its low rates are powering domestic inflation.
Canada, however, is far from alone.
Inflation is rampant around the world right now, with no clear end in sight.
High consumer spending amid the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has combined with supply chain shocks worsened both by factory closures caused by the reality that the virus is still circulating in high numbers, as well as the sharp shortages in supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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“I think it’s a very simplification to assume that if we just change the leader, that somehow this sort of global environment — and inflation truly is a global issue — just somehow disappears,” Page said.
Sorenson asked: “Can the Bank or the Canadian government on their own bring inflation down in this country?”
Page said: “No.”
“This is a global phenomenon. A lot of it is supply-related, and it’s because of those very strong supports that went in 2020 to help during the lockdown,” he added.
“The economy’s come back really fast and eventually markets will adjust.”
So when might Canadians expect to see inflation back in a more normal range?
Page said the Bank of Canada’s moves to raise interest rates will play a role in helping slow the economy.
“I think over the next couple of years we could see inflation back maybe in that three per cent range.”
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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
David Milgaard, who advocated for justice after he was wrongfully convicted of murder, has died
David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent more than 23 years in prison, has died. Milgaard was only 17 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of Gail Miller in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was released from prison in 1992 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. In 1999, Milgaard was awarded $10 million in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Canadian government. Milgaard and two friends had been on a road trip, driving through the city when the murder happened.
Milgaard, who was born in Winnipeg, had been living in Calgary with his son and daughter.
Milgaard maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. His mother Joyce Milgaard, who died in 2020, tirelessly advocated on her son’s behalf. In the decades since his release, Milgaard had spoken publicly, calling for changes in how Canadian courts review convictions.
His picture is now included in the Canadian Journey’s gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Isha Khan, the museum’s CEO, said Milgaard was a human rights defender.
“He is someone we know, and the reason we know is that he was able to tell his story, and it takes a special kind of person to continue to try to connect with people,” she said, adding his work is not over.
“There are people across this country in correctional institutions who have been wrongfully convicted, who need a voice and don’t have a voice that David Milgaard did for whatever reason it may be, and it is our job to listen and to look for those stories.”
Milgaard had recently been pushing for an independent review board to prevent miscarriages of justice.
“David was a marvellous advocate for the wrongly convicted, for all the years he’s been out since 1992. We’re going to miss him a lot. He was a lovely man,” James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
Lockyer, a founding director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, joined Milgaard’s case following his release in 1992 and helped him through the process to get DNA testing done. Lockyer said as a result of the DNA evidence, a man named Larry Fisher was arrested, and charged with the rape and murder. Fisher died while serving a life sentence.
Ontario international students, families making 'massive sacrifices' for the Canadian dream – CBC.ca
The death of an Indian student in Toronto last month made international headlines, but while Kartik Vasudev’s story ended in tragedy, his parents’ sacrifices offer a glimpse into the hardships that many international students and their families face to achieve the dream of a future in Canada.
Vasudev’s father, Jitesh Vasudev, told CBC News he and his wife spent their entire life savings and mortgaged their house to take out a loan of $50,000, just to afford the first year of his son’s education in Canada, before he was shot and killed.
“The only mistake of my innocent child was that he dreamt big of studying in a foreign country, and he wanted to make a name of himself while representing India,” said Vasudev’s mother, Pooja Vasudev, in a video posted to Instagram. “We had a lot of dreams and expectations with our child, he was going to be our support in our old age.”
International students who spoke to CBC News say those kinds of sacrifices are common, and can take a major toll.
They say international students can pay almost four times more in tuition fees than domestic students, and are calling for change.
An Ontario Auditor General’s report from last year highlighted the reliance of Ontario colleges on international student tuition.
The report showed that while international students represented only 30 per cent of the total enrolment in public colleges, they accounted for 68 per cent of tuition fee revenue at a total of $1.7 billion. A majority of students — 62 per cent — were from India.
According to a 2020 report from Global Affairs Canada, international students contributed $16.2 billion and $19.7 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2017 and 2018.
A better future in Canada
Students and advocates told CBC News that many international students from India come to Canada to become permanent residents and build a better future for themselves as well as their families.
They say there are limited employment opportunities in India compared to Canada, leading their parents to go to great lengths to send them abroad.
Jobanpreet Singh knows that struggle firsthand.
“[Vasudev’s family] sacrificed a lot to send their child to Canada for a brighter future,” the 22-year-old international student said. “I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for them.”
Born and raised in a farmer’s family in Punjab, India, Singh came to Canada as an international student in August 2021, where he is studying at the Academy of Learning Career College in Toronto.
For his first year in Canada, his family spent around $30,000 on his tuition and living expenses.
Singh said his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and sold assets just to be able to pay for his first year of college.
“[International students] have work stress, school stress, and we have extremely high tuition fees, which is topped off with the fact that we can only work 20 hours a week,” he said.
Singh said it is very difficult to handle expenses and living costs in Toronto while working those limited hours.
According to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “limiting off-campus work to 20 hours per week reflect the fact that the focus for international students in Canada is on their studies.”
Tuition gap between domestic and international students
Sarom Rho from advocacy group Migrant Students United says international students who come to Canada also face rising costs of tuition fees, which are already three to four times more than domestic tuition.
“The majority of current and former international students and their families have made massive sacrifices for them, for example by selling lands, taking out massive educational loans, selling assets, just to pay for these extremely high tuition fees,” said Rho.
Rho added that because of these financial burdens, international students also face significant mental health issues.
Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in a statement that it understands that as newcomers to Canada and Ontario, international students can face unique challenges.
“Student wellbeing is paramount, and we support the steps taken by Ontario’s colleges and universities to ensure that international students are well supported before and after their arrival in Ontario,” said James Tinajero, spokesperson for the ministry.
Gurpreet Singh, a 22-year-old Seneca College student, came to Canada in September 2020. His parents mortgaged their entire agricultural farmland to send him to Canada.
He said because of his international student status in Canada, he can’t apply for scholarships and bursaries at his college.
“That’s a huge drawback for us,” said Gurpreet. “If we’re not getting anything extra [over] the domestic students and we pay the same taxes, then why do we pay this huge amount for our tuition?”
The ministry says college and university boards of governors have the full authority to set tuition fees for international students.
“Colleges and universities are allowed the discretion to establish tuition fees for international students at levels the institutions deem appropriate,” said Tinajero.
Gurpreet has completed half of his education, and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. But instead of asking for help from his family, Gurpreet is taking the responsibility on himself.
According to the IRCC, international students can work full-time when they are on a scheduled break, like during winter and summer holidays, or during a fall or spring reading week.
Gurpreet is currently on a summer break from his college. He says this is his last chance to work full-time before he begins his third semester in the fall.
For the next four months of summer break, Gurpreet says he’ll be working in two different warehouses doing long days of general labour.
“Right now I’ve [got] to concentrate on my work to pay off my fees, so I’m willing to compromise for the next four months,” he said.
“I know this is going to be hard, but these hardships are temporary, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
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