Auditor general: GN may have wasted up to 31 per cent of COVID-19 vaccines

Report presented at legislative assembly Tuesday; health minister says changes are already being started

From left: Premier P.J. Akeeagok, Child and Family Services Minister Margaret Nakashuk and Health Minister John Main speak at a media briefing in response to two reports presented by Canada’s auditor general Karen Hogan in the legislative assembly Tuesday. (Photo by Meral Jamal)

By Meral Jamal

Nunavut’s Health Department may have wasted one-third of its COVID-19 vaccines, according to a report presented Tuesday to the Nunavut legislative assembly by Canada’s auditor general Karen Hogan.

“We found that vaccination efforts were hampered by the lack of a pandemic plan and information systems to track, monitor and report on vaccine inventory,” Hogan told reporters in Iqaluit.

“As a result, the Department of Health may have wasted up to 31 per cent of the doses it received.”

Hogan’s report investigated the vaccine rollout in Nunavut during the pandemic between March 2020 and October 2022.

It focused on whether the GN’s departments of Health, Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs, and Community and Government Services managed the rollout effectively and equitably.

Waste occurred in expired doses, opened vials with doses that weren’t administrated, vials not kept at required temperatures, and storage and handling incidents.

While the GN reported wastage of 18,151 doses — 15 per cent of the total received as of September 2022 — the report noted “poor record-keeping and the lack of inventory tracking” meant its health department could not account for an additional 19,542 doses, or 16 per cent of the doses it received.

“To strengthen its response to future pandemics and mass vaccination efforts,” Hogan said, “the Government of Nunavut needs to set up proper information systems, including an inventory management system.

“This would also improve the delivery of health-care services to the territory’s population and reduce the burden on an overstretched workforce.”

Nunavut Health Minister John Main, seen here during a media briefing at the legislative assembly Tuesday, says recommendations by the country’s auditor general Karen Hogan on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the territory will help inform responses to other health problems. (Photo by Meral Jamal)

Melanie Joanisse, director of performance audits at the auditor general’s office, said tracking vaccine inventory on a local level in Nunavut was done manually, in some cases using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

“The fact that there’s unaccounted for [vaccines] and that’s part of the lack of an inventory management system and that you lose track of what happens in the community — that’s of concern,” she told Nunatsiaq News.

Joanisse and audit principal Markirit Armutlu said the percentage of doses unaccounted for due to lack of automated inventory management is higher in Nunavut than in other jurisdictions.

An April 2021 report from Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force found the province had wasted less than one per cent of its doses at the time.

In Ontario, a November 2022 report by its provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk found the province wasted 38 per cent of vaccine doses it received between February and June that year.

“Imagine in a community where you have a health-care provider and a nurse who can provide any sort of medication or a vaccine,” Armutlu said.

“If you don’t have an automated inventory, then at any point in time you’re not sure whether your medication or your vaccine is available, or whether what’s available is not expired and you can actually use it.”

Nunavut Health Minister John Main said he recognizes the importance of digitizing the vaccine inventory management process.

He said his department has already acted to improve vaccine rollout, in particular by raising the issue of a public health surveillance system for Nunavut with federal partners including Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“We have to realize … there were a couple of tools we didn’t have in the toolkit, and we still don’t have a toolkit in terms of a digital inventory management system as well as a public health surveillance system,” Main told reporters.

“We are working to fill those gaps, but we’re going to need funding and we’re going to need resources to do that.”

The auditor general’s report also recommends the GN update its pandemic-response plans.

Officials said that the plans and response guidelines were not used because they were obsolete, the report said. That led to “lack of clarity” over the roles and responsibilities of senior health officials.

Main said the GN’s response plan is already being updated, which will also be helpful in addressing other health issues such as tuberculosis outbreaks.

Armutlu and Joanisse said they recognize Nunavut faced unique challenges in rolling out vaccinations — the size and remoteness of the territory, community health centre closures, the need to fly in health-care providers to administer the doses, and inadequate facilities to properly store vaccines.

“We want to highlight that moving forward, [it’s about] learning from the current pandemic and being able to update the pandemic plans,” Joanisse said.

The auditor general’s report also recommended tracking completion of orientation and training programs for health-care staff, monitoring whether their licenses and certifications are current, and providing regular reports of overdue training and expired licenses or certifications.


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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Remember Waiting on

    I remember being stuck waiting for vaccine. Provinces had moved on to under 18 by the time my age group was called in Nunavut. NWT was way ahead and no hotel jail. we wouldn’t leave and come back without the hotel jail unless vaccinated. Now I find out the reason I waited. I am not even mad I am just disgusted with Health.

  2. Posted by ? on

    These MLA are the biggest joke of all stop wasting taxpayers $$

  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    I had the first and second dose for work. Had months later , I’m sure it helper.

    But after that I was done.

    Makes me ill the way Trudeau now claims he never forced the vaccine on anyone. This next election can’t come fast enough. I hope you all have a long memory

    • Posted by John K on

      No one forced you to do anything.

      • Posted by Nadia on

        No. “They” just said you’d lose your job if you didn’t get vaccinated. Or not able to fly to see your grandkids if you weren’t vaccinated. Or not allowed to enter certain buildings, including many businesses unless vaccinated.

        Full disclosure: I DID get vaccinated, but the coercion was real.

        • Posted by John K on

          You could have refused; no one would have compelled you.

      • Posted by Northern Inuit on

        GN, duty travel vaccine mandate.

        Holiday? Vaccine mandate.

        • Posted by John K on

          I understand that personal responsibility for the sake of others is very irksome. Or at least I assume it is based on people’s strong aversion to it.

  4. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Good inventory control is one of the basics in effective health care management. It makes one wonder how many other even more serious inventory control issues GN Health may have with drugs like opioids etc.?

  5. Posted by Up here on

    I am hoping people learned more than what is being said here about efficiency and effectiveness!!!!!!!!

  6. Posted by Old timer on

    John Main for igalaaq.

  7. Posted by Name withheld on

    I still wonder why the Government of Nunavut would not invest more on machines for the Health Centre’s around Nunavut that will automatically dispense medication when prescribed to patience, for one it will have the nurse, doctors name, date, how many etc. It would be the same for vaccines. They use Meditec which connects to each regional server, this dispenses machine can do the same.

    Instead of paying crazy amount of money on DM’s, ADM’s, Ministers salary , start spending it wisely to where all Nunavumiut can all benefit from!!

    • Posted by northerner on

      Nah, I am way more bitter that GN dole out close to $200 million on quarantine hotels. That was the most expensive dumbest decision ever. To top it off, apparently MLAs and some are immune to covid as they do not require quarantine. And also the $4 million a week to Canadian North for god knows how long.

      • Posted by Geany on

        I think we need a broad and independent investigation on how we / our governments handled the pandemic, ie not just re vaccine delivery, but also questions like that, what surveillance systems, what plans do we have to nip the next pandemic in the bud instead of dragging us all in 2 year limbo, how people were affected positively (fewer sick and dead people) and negatively (people in industries who could not work from home and suffered more,jobs lost, mental health,kids who did not get education, etc..), polarization of our politics encouraged by politicians for political gain at a time when we should all be sticking together.


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