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Could surplus COVID-19 vaccines go to waste in Quebec?

Click to play video: 'Quebec concerns over wasted doses of COVID-19 vaccines' Quebec concerns over wasted doses of COVID-19 vaccines
WATCH: As Quebec nears the end of its mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign, could the province have too many vaccines? Global's Raquel Fletcher reports – Jul 28, 2021

For months, the Quebec government had to make difficult decisions about how to distribute limited quantities of COVID-19 vaccine. Now as it nears the end of its mass vaccination campaign, the province is looking at a different problem — it could have too much.

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“We should absolutely not waste any doses, you know, it’s so precious,” said Nathalie Grandvaux, a researcher at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM).

In the next couple of weeks, millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines are scheduled to be delivered to Quebec, but as the province nears its target of 75 per cent of the general population receiving two doses, it could soon be looking at a surplus.

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“The fact that we will have more doses than what we need was obvious, almost from the beginning, when you counted the number of doses the government reserved from the different companies versus the number of people who needed a vaccination,” Grandvaux explained.

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Of course, that was in part, deliberate, she said. Some people who want to travel and those who are immuno-compromised could need a third dose. And if clinical trials currently ongoing show the vaccine is safe for children, doses will be needed for them too.

The problem is the vaccine only has a shelf life of six months, so unless we’re not absolutely sure we’re going to use them, Grandvaux said we shouldn’t restock.

“A lot of countries don’t have access to the vaccine the same as we have had,” she said. “And we won’t be able to get out of this pandemic without the whole world being vaccinated, so … it’s time to share.”

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No one from the province returned calls or emails from Global News to confirm how many extra doses the government thinks it might have on its hands, but Wednesday, Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed there is no shortage.

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He made another plea for Quebecers to get vaccinated sooner rather than later.

“We have enough vaccine for everyone,” he tweeted in French. “Take advantage of it!”

He voiced his concern about another rise in infections and the presence of the Delta variant.

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“These variants might be able to escape the immune response that is generated by vaccination and might come back to haunt us,” warned Alain Lamarre, an immunology and virology professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS).

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He said Quebec needs to increase its target vaccination rate “to 80, maybe even 85 per cent with the more transmissible Delta variant.”

An increasing number of scientists, as well as Montreal Public Health, also agree that attaining herd immunity will only happen with a very high vaccination rate.

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