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COVID-19: B.C. to offer choice of vaccine as 2nd dose to AstraZeneca recipients

Click to play video: 'Good news for B.C. AstraZeneca patients' Good news for B.C. AstraZeneca patients
The provincial government has announced that people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first COVID-19 shot can get any vaccine for their second shot. Richard Zussman reports. – Jun 3, 2021

British Columbia is shrinking the interval to eight weeks for people who received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a first dose, and will be offering any vaccine available in B.C. as a second dose.

The shift in policy is based on advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

This means someone who received AstraZeneca as a first dose can now receive it as a second dose or opt for Moderna or Pfizer.

If someone opts to receive a second dose of AstraZeneca they will be contacted by the pharmacy where they received their first dose.

Click to play video: 'B.C. to offer choice of vaccine as 2nd dose to AstraZeneca recipients' B.C. to offer choice of vaccine as 2nd dose to AstraZeneca recipients
B.C. to offer choice of vaccine as 2nd dose to AstraZeneca recipients – Jun 3, 2021

“Do not call the pharmacy. The pharmacy will call you when it is your time to book,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

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“The AstraZeneca vaccine is getting shipped to pharmacies across B.C.”

Henry said the pharmacies cannot handle the phone calls associated with the more than 280,000 people in the province who have received AstraZeneca as a first dose.

Those who call will not be given an appointment from the pharmacy.

Read more: New COVID-19 cases in B.C. fall below 200 for 3rd consecutive day

Click to play video: 'B.C. to give AstraZeneca vaccine recipients a choice for second dose' B.C. to give AstraZeneca vaccine recipients a choice for second dose
B.C. to give AstraZeneca vaccine recipients a choice for second dose – May 17, 2021

When asked for her advice on which to take, Henry said there are various factors.

The science is more clear now about blood clotting, which is considerably lower a risk for dose two than it was for dose one.

As for effectiveness, Henry says the real world effectiveness of how well the vaccine works to protect you is just as good with AstraZeneca as with a Pfizer vaccine.

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Side effects come into play as well. One study in the U.K. where they looked at Pfizer-Pfizer, AZN-Pfizer, Pfizer-AZN — the mix-and match of the two different vaccines — they found that if you had a different vaccine for your second dose, you were more likely to have side effects that included a sore arm, fever, achiness and feeling kind of blah for a couple of days.

“The only thing I can say — we call it non-inferiority. We know that it’s just as good to get a second dose of AstraZeneca or to get a second dose of an mRNA vaccine after having the first dose of AZN,” Henry said.

“It is a little bit about your own personal risk. Our basic principle of vaccines is that you should get the second dose of the same vaccine you had for your first dose and that’s what I would be most comfortable with, but for some people that very rare risk of blood clots is a very concerning thing and they would rather have a different vaccine. It is a personal choice. Both of these are equally good options.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. reports 199 new COVID-19 cases, along with two new deaths' B.C. reports 199 new COVID-19 cases, along with two new deaths
B.C. reports 199 new COVID-19 cases, along with two new deaths – Jun 3, 2021

As for which you will receive sooner, Henry says it is most likely the pharmacies will have appointments soon than the clinics. But that could change by July as the clinics clear the backlog of those currently set to receive a second Moderna or Pfizer dose.

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AstraZeneca recipients will also get an invitation after eight weeks, starting as early as Monday, to receive Moderna or Pfizer, both mRNA vaccines, as their second dose.

If someone chooses this option they can book the appointment at one of the province’s clinics through the link they will be provided.

“As we all know our clinics are very busy and that is a good thing, it means lots of people are getting vaccinated every day. We have plenty of supply.”

On Tuesday, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended it was safe for those who received AstraZeneca as a first dose to receive Pfizer or Moderna as a second dose.

NACI is also giving the thumbs-up to the mixing and matching of mRNA vaccines, so those who received Pfizer as a first dose can receive Moderna as a second dose and vice-versa. B.C. already announced plans to implement this form of mixing and matching.

Read more: B.C. expected to allow mixing and matching for second COVID-19 vaccine dose

Henry has mentioned previously that studies show AstraZeneca is more effective when there is a 12-week interval between doses. In B.C., the gap between doses of mRNA vaccine is eight weeks and 13 weeks for AstraZeneca.

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A vast majority of countries around the world are not mixing and matching yet. But NACI advises international jurisdictions will consider a Canadian fully vaccinated if they receive both doses of a two-dose vaccine, regardless of the brand.

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