Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is reporting that residents of the Saugeen First Nation in Ontario were given expired doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for nearly a month before the error was caught.
According to ISC, 71 people were given expired doses. They were administered to residents between Aug. 13, 2021, and Sept. 9, 2021.
The ISC was informed of the error on Sept. 15, and immediately launched an internal review into what caused the situation.
Since then individuals who have received expired doses have been contacted or attempted to be contacted.
Several groups were contacted for guidance including the Grey Bruce Public Health Unit and Pfizer.
The expired doses do not pose any health risks to those who have taken them but according to the ISC, they have been informed that anyone who was given an expired dose will need to be revaccinated.
Following a review of the situation, Saugeen First Nation (SFN) issued an update as to how the error may have occurred.
In a memo sent out to residents SFN COVID-19 Coordinator Tara Campbell made the following conclusions:
- A vaccine shipment from public health was received on July 13, 2021. The expiration date on the vials said October 2021.
- An expiration date is only valid if the vials remain frozen
- When the vaccine is thawed and stored in a cool but not frozen state it is only good for 31 days
- SFN says that the ISC stored this shipment in a thawed state meaning it was set to expire on Aug. 9, not October.
- The expiration date was adjusted on the box but not on the vials as replacing vial dates was not ISC protocol
- Those administering the doses were checking the vial dates rather than the date on the box
- SFN, including COVID-19 response staff, were not responsible for the handling of the vaccines
Officials say it is important to note that taking an expired vaccine is not harmful, but it can mean that those who were given one are not fully protected from the virus.
Asked about the issue during a briefing on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said she was not aware of the specific situation, but the vaccine program that’s being delivered is very complex and checkpoints are needed.
She is calling for an examination of the incident to try to prevent similar situations in the future.
“I do know that in such a massive undertaking there could be challenges and issues that will come up. So I think that the most genuine way of tackling the issues, having had this identified, is for the various key leadership and people trying to deliver the program to sit down together and understand what actually happened and find a path forward. “
When it comes to vaccine status those who were given the expired shots are not considered fully vaccinated.
The Saugeen First Nation has a population of just under 2,000 people and is in the Bruce Peninsula region.
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