Manitoba says it will begin delaying the timing of second doses of COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to see more Manitobans get their first shot more quickly.
Dr. Joss Reimer, head of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, said Wednesday the new approach will apply to all three vaccines now approved for use in Canada.
“The reason for this decision at this time is based on what we’re seeing in real-world conditions about the effectiveness of the vaccines that are currently authorized for use in Canada and around the world,” Reimer said.
“These vaccines are providing a significant level of protection, even after one dose. This means that there is more of a clear advantage to getting vaccine to more people sooner.
“This approach will allow us to immunize more eligible Manitobans sooner and this helps protect us all.”
Reimer said health officials are still working out how the move to delay second dose appointments will affect the province’s vaccination efforts.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued updated guidance for the administration of all COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday, recommending provinces extend the interval between the two doses of vaccine up to four months when faced with a limited supply, in order to quickly immunize as many people as possible.
As many as 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the panel said.
Reimer said Manitoba would follow the national committee guidelines, but added second-dose appointments already booked will be honoured.
Currently in Manitoba second dose appointments are scheduled three to four weeks after the first shots are given.
Evidence supporting the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness weeks after its first injection is piling up, Canada’s top public health official said Tuesday.
Dr. Theresa Tam called the figures “incredible,” and said “over two months of data and beyond” showed sustained efficacy among COVID-19 vaccines even after a “significant number of weeks.”
Modelling headed by Saskatchewan’s Dr. Graham Jurgens and German modeller Kyle Lackner released Tuesday estimated delaying the second dose four months would help population in high density areas reach herd immunity between five and six weeks sooner, with an average population immunity about 20 per cent higher, relative to standard three or four-week spacing.
Several provinces have already extended the window between the first and second doses in order to fast-track the number of Canadians receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The largest thus far is in British Columbia, which announced it would increase the gap from up to 28 days to 112 on Monday.
Manitoba has so far delivered 80,171 doses of vaccine including 50,895 first doses and 29,276 second doses.
Earlier in the day Wednesday health officials said Manitoba expects to receive its first doses of the newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by mid-March, although how many shots the province will received isn’t yet known.
Health officials also announced Wednesday Manitoba is dropping its age for vaccinations in the general public by one year.
Vaccinations can now be booked for First Nations people aged 69 and up and for other people aged 89 and up.
–With files from Emerald Bensadoun and The Canadian Press
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