It is likely Albertans could see earlier second doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, according to the province’s chief medical officer of health.
The province is currently spacing doses out up to 16 weeks apart; the move was made to get as many first doses into arms as possible but it has been met with some criticism from experts who say there is no clinical data for that extended dosing schedule.
On Thursday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said as soon as the province is done offering first doses to all Albertans who are eligible and want it, it will start offering second doses.
Hinshaw said there is increased supply coming to Alberta over the next several months and pointed to how, on Monday, bookings will open to those 12 and up.
“Once we finish offering to all those individuals, we will of course be moving on to second doses so it’s very likely that the interval will be shorter than four months,” she said.
“The four-month interval was always a maximum. We were never planning to require a wait of four months. It was really about, we would not have anyone go beyond four months, but if we can offer it sooner, we will.”
Global News asked Alberta Health for clarification on how and when the province could move on to second doses, including whether certain thresholds for bookings or vaccination uptake must be met.
“No exact timeline or threshold has been set.
“Once more vaccines have arrived and more Albertans are immunized, we will shorten the 16-week timeline when possible,” said spokesperson Tom McMillan.
The province is already offering a shorter dosing schedule for vulnerable Albertans who are transplant recipients, receiving active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy) or being treated with an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody such as Rituximab.
The change to 16 weeks between doses was recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which cited evidence that there was protection against serious infection or death was present after one dose.
“We’ve seen research from other jurisdictions that indicates one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine offers a huge boost in immunity, with Canadian data indicating about 80 per cent protection after the first dose,” Hinshaw said on March 3.
-with files from Kirby Bourne