Authorities arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist Thursday suspected of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by removing it from refrigeration for two nights.
The Grafton Police Department said the former Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property. The department said in a news release that he was in jail. Police did not identify the pharmacist, saying he has not yet been formally charged.
His motive remains unclear. Police said that detectives believe he knew the spoiled doses would be useless and people who received them would mistakenly think they’d been vaccinated when they hadn’t.
Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters during a teleconference Thursday afternoon that the pharmacist deliberately removed 57 vials that held hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration at a Grafton medical centre overnight on Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of Dec. 25 into Saturday. The vials contained enough doses to inoculate 570 people.
A pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator on Saturday morning. Bahr said the pharmacist initially said that he had removed the vaccine to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to replace it.
The Moderna vaccine is still viable for 12 hours outside refrigeration, so workers used the vaccine to inoculate 57 people before discarding the rest. Police said the discarded doses were worth between $8,000 and $11,000.
Bahr said health system officials grew more suspicious of the pharmacist as they reviewed the incident. After multiple interviews the pharmacist acknowledged Wednesday that he removed the vaccine deliberately and left it out overnight Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned it to the refrigerator at some point and then removed it again overnight Dec. 25 to Dec. 26.
Bahr said that means that the doses people received Saturday are all but useless. Moderna has told Aurora that there’s no safety concerns but the system is monitoring them closely, he said.
Bahr declined to comment on the pharmacist’s motive.
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B.C. can't prevent ban interprovincial travel – WellandTribune.ca
A ban on Canadians from other provinces coming to British Columbia appears unlikely, with the province releasing a statement on Jan. 21 that it would not be possible with the current legal frameworks in place.
In a statement, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province had called for a legal review on the matter to see if such a move was possible.
“The review of our legal options made it clear we can’t prevent people from travelling to British Columbia,” read the statement. “We can impose restrictions on people travelling for non-essential purposes if they are causing harm to the health and safety of British Columbians.”
The statement goes on to say that much of the current interprovincial travel currently going on is work related, and that public health officials are stressing the need for the public to obey health orders, rather than impose mobility rules.
Horgan did, however, indicate that stronger restrictions on non-essential interprovincial travel could be made if transmission increases due to interprovincial travel.
“If we see transmission increase due to interprovincial travel, we will impose stronger restrictions on non-essential travellers,” reads the statement. “We will continue to work with the tourism and hospitality sectors to make sure all possible safety precautions are in place.”
The whole subject of inter-provincial, non-essential travel—and whether it should be banned—became a bit of a flashpoint recently, after a Whistler emergency room physician reported seeing a worrying amount of patients from Quebec and Ontario during the holiday period and called for a halt to non-essential, inter-provincial travel.
Will Canadians get to choose which COVID-19 vaccine they get? – Global News
Two vaccines are already approved, two are under review, and two more are in the pipeline, making it possible that Canadians could eventually have access to at least six different COVID-19 vaccines.
With so many options, will Canadians get to choose which shot they get?
Federal minister of international development Karina Gould told a Global News station in London, Ont., that “the vaccine distribution happens via the provinces” and so “it would be up to the government of Ontario to decide where vaccines are going (in Ontario),” for example.
Global News has reached out to Canada’s provinces and territories for comment, with the majority suggesting it is too soon to say.
British Columbia’s ministry of health said those vaccinated in Phase 1 of its plan do not have a choice between Pfizer and Moderna (though they always know which one they’re receiving) but once more vaccines become available that could change, depending on supply and availability.
A spokesperson for Alberta said that “we are not providing eligible groups with a choice of vaccine at this time.”
Saskatchewan said only that “the availability of vaccine is determined by the supply as well as the logistic and handling requirements of the vaccine.”
A spokesperson for Manitoba said “it is far too early to speculate about vaccine choice” but that the province will “continue to update Manitobans with more information as it becomes available.”
Ontario did not provide a statement by publication time.
In Quebec, a spokesperson said, “due to the limited number of doses currently available to us, we cannot offer people a choice of vaccine,” adding, “it is the federal government that is responsible for the supply of the vaccine against COVID-19 to the provinces and territories.”
A spokesperson for New Brunswick said it’s “too early to say what will happen” when more vaccine options are made available.
In Nova Scotia, a spokesperson said only that “the Province makes decisions on which vaccine to send to a clinic based (on) factors such as location, supply, transportation and storage requirements.”
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s department of health and community services told Global News that “the goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible as vaccines arrive in the province. At this time, Newfoundland and Labrador is not planning to provide vaccine options.”
In Prince Edward Island, a spokesperson said that “at this time, Islanders are not choosing between Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”
Yukon said that since additional vaccines have yet to be approved “this is not a decision that has been considered yet.”
The Northwest Territories said “we will speak to that when another option (not Pfizer) is available.”
Nunavut said only that it is currently allocated the Moderna vaccine due to the extreme cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine and resulting logistical challenges.
Trudeau insists Canada on track for vaccine goals amid opposition questions about supply delay
The ethics of choice
Beyond the question of whether or not Canadians will get to choose which company’s vaccine they get, however, is the question of whether Canadians should have that choice.
Bioethicist at Western University in London, Ont., Charles Weijer says at this point in time priority groups are the focus but it’s “conceivable” that Canadians could have that choice in the latter half of this year.
“It’s actually a day to look forward to, I think. Once there is choice, we’ll know that there are adequate supplies and that’ll be a good thing.”
Weijer, who was also a member of the working group that developed the World Health Organization’s ethical guidelines for COVID-19 human challenge studies, suggests that the COVID-19 vaccine should be treated like other medical interventions in Canada.
“If there’s more than one product licensed and available, typically we allow Canadians to make a choice.”
Natalie Kofler, molecular biologist and lecturer at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Harvard Medical School, agreed that it is a possibility but raised concerns about worldwide distribution of vaccines.
“Given that Canada seems to have so many vaccines available, there might be the choice at some point,” she said, referencing that Canada has secured enough doses to vaccinate the population many times over.
Kofler says if scientific data shows that certain vaccines are better for those who are pregnant or for youths, for example, then those groups should have access to those vaccines, but when it comes to widespread choice, it becomes “a dicey question.”
She stressed that the pandemic is a global crisis that requires a global response.
“Before we start vaccinating our entire population, are there people who really need them in other countries that need this first so that we can ensure that we move beyond this pandemic as a healthy global community? Because what’s really concerning is what this can set up as an even greater emergence of inequity within this world,” she said.
“Many countries are going to be left behind if they can’t get up and running by at least having their front-line workers and those really most vulnerable being vaccinated.”
An international crisis
“Ensuring equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines is an exceptionally important issue,” Weijer said.
“Part of the reason it matters is our history in this space is just so bad.”
Weijer pointed to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic as a very recent example. In that case, he says, a vaccine was rapidly generated and then “rich countries just systematically outbid poorer countries for access to the vaccine.”
As part of the response to COVID-19, the WHO partnered with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and global vaccine alliance Gavi to launch COVAX, an initiative in which Weijer says Canada has played “an important role.”
Minister Gould is co-chairing the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) Engagement Group “which is the mechanism to ensure that vaccines are delivered in the developing world,” she told Global News.
“From the get-go, Canada has been supporting multilateral and global efforts to make sure there is a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines,” she said.
“We can be at a point where we’ve vaccinated hopefully everyone here in Canada by September, but if the rest of the world still has the pandemic raging we’re not going to be able to get back to the things that we like to do — travelling, trading, visiting family and friends, having people come visit us here in Canada — until we really get the pandemic under control everywhere.”
Canada has contributed $220 million to the initiative, Gould says, and has also committed to donating excess physical vaccines to COVAX.
COVAX can also expect a boost from the United States, which confirmed intentions to participate just hours after Joe Biden officially took office as president of the United States last Wednesday, the Washington Post reported.
Coronavirus: Vaccine nationalism puts world on brink of ‘catastrophic moral failure,’ says WHO chief
Just two days earlier, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned that the world is on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure” in sharing vaccines. At that time, at least 56 bilateral deals had been signed.
As of Jan. 18, Tedros said more than 39 million vaccine doses had been administered in 49 higher-income countries whereas just 25 doses had been given in one poor country.
“We’re not all in the same pot putting money in and also getting our doses through COVAX,” Kofler said.
“We’re putting money in, then we’re also doing your side game of buying doses — more doses than we actually even need — and making sure we’re fine. Things fall a little bit apart when you don’t have vested interest in the success of the project.”
She added that COVAX is also “delayed in their approval process,” having only recently approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“That’s also on the company’s responsibility because they’re choosing where they enter in for emergency approval in these different nations. And they’ve also chosen to first go for approval in high-income countries that are likely going to be more profitable for these companies once they send out their shipments.”
Who gets the most effective vaccines?
So far, Canada has approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which are both said to be over 90 per cent effective in protecting people from the coronavirus.
The AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are currently under review in Canada, with a decision on AstraZeneca expected first.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told Global News on Jan. 21 that, so far, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Mexico, and Morocco “have provided authorization” for emergency supply of its vaccine.
A Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson told Global News on Jan. 19 that Health Canada experts will be taking part in a meeting of the European Medicines Agency, EMA, on Jan. 29 “to discuss authorization of the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
Pooled data from December showed an efficacy rate of 70 per cent for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Kofler says efficacy is a “challenging thing to really nail down at this point.”
“These weren’t challenge trials (which involve people being deliberately infected), it was people going about their daily life to see if they were somewhat more protected — they were still wearing masks, they were still doing other things to protect themselves from COVID,” she explained.
“They are statistically sound, I’m not debating that. I’m just saying that I think it’s likely that as time progresses, AstraZeneca’s efficacy will probably work out to be a bit higher than what it’s showing.
“Scientifically, there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t be a highly effective vaccination.”
Weijer says the AstraZeneca vaccine, and a few others, were always going to be the most appropriate choices for low- and middle-income countries.
“If differential efficacy was driving the choices that Canada was making or was driving the choices that low- and middle-income countries were making, that certainly would be unfair. But I don’t think that’s what’s been going on.”
Instead, Weijer says decision-making comes down to cost and refrigeration.
“Pfizer’s about $25 a dose. The Moderna’s about $40 a dose. That’s unaffordable for low-income countries. The AstraZeneca vaccine comes in at around $3 a dose.”
As well, because the AstraZeneca vaccine is an adenoviral vector vaccine, it only requires regular refrigeration instead of freezing like the Moderna vaccine or deep-freezing like the Pfizer vaccine, which are both mRNA vaccines.
“The lack of access to sort of basic refrigeration in the poorest countries in the world before coronavirus was interfering with the delivery of about 40 per cent of of the world’s vaccine doses,” he stressed.
“This is a longstanding problem. The AstraZeneca vaccine, therefore, was really the only one that was going to be feasible for low- and middle-income countries.”
— with files from Global News’ Jigar Patel, Sean Boynton, and Emerald Bensadoun as well as Reuters’ Emma Farge.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Provinces set back COVID-19 vaccinations as deliveries grind to halt – Campbell River Mirror
Some provinces were forced to push back vaccination for health-care workers and vulnerable seniors on Monday as deliveries from a major manufacturer ground to a temporary halt.
Canada is not due to receive any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week as the company revamps its operations, and deliveries are expected to be slow for the next few weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed that the delay is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March.
As Parliament resumed Monday, Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.
Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.
Trudeau added that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.
Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.
“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.
Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations.
Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.
Newfoundland and Labrador also reported no new cases of COVID-19 for a third straight day.
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