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Man says it’s ‘unbelievable’ he and 14 others got expired COVID vaccines at Sask. pharmacy

A Regina man is angry after learning he, his wife and about a dozen others were recently injected with expired COVID-19 vaccines.

“We were trying to do the right thing. We’re protecting my family and others by getting this vaccination. And to hear that you got something expired, it was unbelievable,” Jignesh Padia told CBC News.

On Nov. 19, Padia and his wife went to the Southland Mall Safeway pharmacy to get a bivalent COVID shot, while their son got a flu shot.

He recalled that he sensed something was off.

“We did notice that the pharmacist appeared a little bit tired,” Padia said.

man says its unbelievable he and 14 others got expired covid vaccines at sask pharmacy
Jignesh Padia wants the pharmacy regulatory body to investigate the incident. (AP)

He said that’s why he double checked with the pharmacist that he and his wife were getting bivalent shots and made his son get the flu shot first “to avoid any mismanagement.”

Then this past Friday, Padia got a call from the pharmacy informing him that the shots he and his wife received had expired on Nov. 2. 

He was also told that they got doses that only protect against the original coronavirus, and not the bivalent vaccine that protects against Omicron subvariants.

“My son even said, ‘how can this happen? When there is expired food, they throw it out,'” Padia said.

Padia and his wife weren’t the only ones who got expired COVID vaccines. Sobeys, which owns Safeway pharmacies, says it has notified 15 people that they were given expired doses.

The company also said all the doses were the monovalent COVID-19 booster, not the bivalent one.

man says its unbelievable he and 14 others got expired covid vaccines at sask pharmacy 1
Sobeys says it has apologized to patients affected by the incident. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Pharmacies are supposed to throw out expired vaccines, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.

Sobeys apologizes

Sobeys said it’s conducting an internal investigation to learn what led to the incident and how it can be prevented in the future.

“We sincerely regret that this has taken place and have apologized to our patients for the situation and inconvenience. This is contrary to the clearly outlined vaccine administration, storage and safety procedures we have in place at our pharmacies,” wrote Sarah Dawson, public affairs lead for Sobeys.

Padia has also asked Saskatchewan’s pharmacy regulatory body to investigate.

The Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals says it’s mandated to investigate every complaint that it receives from the public about pharmacists, but is not able to publicly comment on an open complaint or investigation.

man says its unbelievable he and 14 others got expired covid vaccines at sask pharmacy 2
Expired vaccines are not harmful but may lose their effectiveness depending on how long after expiry they have been administered, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Expired vaccines may lose effectiveness

Sobeys said it’s working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and the vaccine manufacturer to figure out if the expired vaccines are still viable.

Expired vaccines are not harmful, but may lose their effectiveness and may not produce the same immune response depending on how long they’ve been expired for, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.

“If they are considered viable then they will produce the same immune response as a non-expired vaccine. If determined to not be viable, the vaccine may need to be re-administered to be sure they develop an appropriate immune response,” the ministry wrote in a statement.

There are currently about 1,600 doses of expired vaccine in pharmacies and SHA clinics across the province, according to the ministry, which says vaccine manufacturers continuously test samples of vaccines on the market and, depending on the results of those tests, may extend expiry dates.

Padia hopes to know whether he and his family are protected against COVID before they travel outside of the country next week.

“I’m just puzzled,” he said.

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