Bivalent COVID vaccines are right here. What occurs to the prevailing vaccines?

That is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly evaluation of well being and medical science information. If you have not subscribed but, you are able to do that by clicking right here.

Bivalent vaccines — which goal a couple of pressure of the coronavirus — are making their method into Canada, with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine focusing on the Omicron variant BA.1 rolling out to the provinces and territories this week. 

And that is simply the beginning. Pfizer-BioNTech have an software in for his or her BA.4-BA.5 vaccine, with Moderna’s vaccine focusing on the identical strains anticipated quickly, too. 

However with newer, extra focused vaccines rolling out, what’s going to occur to the prevailing vaccines? 

Federal Well being Minister Jean-Yves Duclos pledged final week to attempt to reduce any vaccine wastage as the newest vaccines roll out. All through the pandemic, Canada has donated a few of its surplus vaccines to different international locations, and federal well being officers stated final week they are going to proceed to donate vaccines as wished.

However those that have been intently following Canada’s pledges for worldwide vaccine donations say Canada’s report of delivery vaccines to lower-income international locations has been sluggish or too late to their expiry dates. And a few specialists are involved this newest stage of vaccine rollout might imply extra vaccines are wasted as demand from different international locations dwindles. 

“It is smart you are going to get the newest and new model [of the vaccine], identical to in the event you had the possibility to purchase a brand new smartphone,” stated Ananya Tina Banerjee, assistant professor in McGill College’s epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational well being division.

“I feel there’s going to be much more vaccines [now]…wasted.”

A small box full of COVID vaccine syringes.
Demand for the unique mRNA vaccines is waning as bivalent vaccines arrive in Canada. (Erik White/CBC )

What’s our plan for current vaccines?

The unique vaccine will nonetheless should be stocked in Canada. In its newest suggestions, the Nationwide Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) continues to advocate a main collection with a licensed mRNA vaccine. 

There are millions of Canadians who’ve but to get their preliminary doses. In line with federal information, about 86 per cent of Canadians 5 and older have accomplished their main collection. 

For now, Canada is holding onto the unique doses as they’re the one ones at the moment authorised for the first collection. 

However the federal authorities has began to make the change over to new bivalent vaccines. Moderna and the Canadian authorities not too long ago agreed to transform six million doses of the corporate’s COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the unique virus, to an Omicron-containing bivalent vaccine. 

Federal well being officers are nonetheless recommending a main collection of the COVID-19 vaccine to be with a licensed mRNA vaccine, like these pictured on this file photograph. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Related Press)

The unique vaccine recipe continues to be wanted, stated Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunobiology professor on the College of Arizona.

“Does it make sense to have an Omicron solely [vaccine]? As a main collection, no, I do not suppose so. As a result of it is clear that you simply get usually fairly slim immunity towards Omicron, however not a few of the different issues that we have seen earlier than,” Bhattacharya stated.

Canada’s nationwide stockpile

The federal authorities earmarked as much as $8 billion for COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021, however a spokesperson with the Public Well being Company of Canada (PHAC) didn’t affirm how a lot has been spent so far.

As newer doses change into out there, federal well being officers stated final week they are going to attempt to reduce disposal of current vaccines.

“With fairly a big provide of vaccines coming onboard in September, that change will happen all through this month. It is very important reduce wastage as a lot as attainable. If we do not want the vaccine, in fact to not purchase extra of it and to have the ability to present it if it is helpful to others,” Canada’s Chief Public Well being Officer Dr. Theresa Tam stated on the announcement of Moderna’s bivalent vaccine approval. 

“Nevertheless it does imply that a few of them much less doubtless will not be used however we do nonetheless have to reduce any potential wastage.”

About 13.6 million doses of AstraZeneca purchased by Canada have been not too long ago disposed of after they expired. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

All through the pandemic, Canada has had a nationwide vaccine stock the place it stocked vaccines authorised by Well being Canada. 

The variety of vaccines within the nationwide stockpile has shifted all through the pandemic, with the reserve at some factors exceeding the 4 million dose restrict promised by the federal authorities. 

As of Sept. 2, there have been greater than eight million mRNA vaccines for adults within the federal facility, in accordance with an announcement from PHAC. 

Thousands and thousands of expired doses

Vaccine wastage has been a priority since vaccines began rolling out. 

On the federal stage, as of Wednesday, round 8.9 million vaccines within the federal stockpile have expired and have been disposed of, a PHAC spokesperson stated. That does not embody the variety of vaccines which have expired after being distributed to the provinces and territories. 

As well as, 13.6 million doses of AstraZeneca purchased by Canada “bilaterally and thru COVAX” have been additionally disposed of after they expired this spring. COVAX is the worldwide vaccine-sharing initiative. 

These vaccines have been a part of a federal announcement final 12 months to supply 21.8 million AstraZeneca doses to international locations in want, stated Natalie Mohamed, a spokesperson for Well being Canada and PHAC, in an electronic mail. 

“Nevertheless, resulting from restricted demand for the vaccine and distribution and absorption challenges confronted by recipient international locations, they weren’t accepted. Canada continues to work with COVAX to assist take away boundaries to vaccination,” she added.

WATCH | Ottawa urged to assist world COVID-19 vaccine fairness:

Consultants name on Ottawa to assist world COVID-19 vaccine fairness

A gaggle of distinguished world well being specialists have penned an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on Canada to assist improved entry to COVID-19 vaccines, checks and coverings.

The issue with vaccine donations

Richer international locations like Canada had pledged to donate a few of their surplus vaccines — together with medical provides and cash — to lower-income international locations primarily via COVAX. However there have been points with a few of these shipments, with some vaccines arriving in lower-income international locations too near their expiry dates, or Canada donating vaccines that have been in much less demand.

And now, with bivalent vaccines rising, some advocates say that vaccine donations have by no means been the answer to assembly world demand. 

“The answer right here has all the time been via the manufacturing of sufficient vaccine doses to fulfill world demand and making these doses out there at a good worth,” stated Jason Nickerson, humanitarian consultant to Canada for Docs With out Borders. 

As of Tuesday, Canada has donated over 50 million surplus vaccines via COVAX and monetary contributions that equal about 87 million vaccines, in accordance with the federal government’s web site

Federal leaders had pledged to donate the equal of a minimum of 200 million doses to COVAX earlier than the tip of this 12 months.

Officers posed subsequent to Canada’s first donated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine which arrived in three international locations in Africa on Sept. 2, 2021. The doses have been a part of a Canadian pledge to COVAX. (Gavi)

Nickerson and Banerjee stated Canada ought to have performed extra earlier within the pandemic to take care of vaccine fairness. 

“It has been irritating general for us,” stated Banerjee. “We have simply just about reached a lifeless finish and all of us can agree that we now have completely failed at world vaccine fairness.”

Nickerson says whereas vaccine donations have been wanted earlier within the pandemic, higher-income international locations like Canada ought to have additionally been placing stress on pharmaceutical firms to extend manufacturing and to switch vaccine know-how to producers able to make vaccines in lower-income international locations.

“The world hasn’t overcome the basic drawback right here, which is that well being merchandise like vaccines and therapeutics — notably throughout a pandemic — should be seen extra akin to world public items if we’re truly going to get critical about tackling this virus and viruses to come back sooner or later as properly,” he stated.

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