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COVID-19: MLHU updates on vaccine mix-and-match, changing 2nd appointments

FILE. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is providing advice for local residents who’ve received one dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and are wondering what to do about their second dose.

The local health unit is also providing clarity about the ability, or lack thereof, to re-book second dose appointments at its mass vaccination clinics.

Read more: COVID-19: MLHU says 2nd dose appointment re-booking for 80+ to start by June 7

While the province is allowing those age 80 and older to re-book their second dose appointments for an earlier date, the Middlesex-London Health Unit maintains that that will not begin locally in its booking system until Monday, June 7.

Additionally, when asked about the potential for the 80 and older crowd to seek out an earlier appointment at a pharmacy, medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie discouraged the idea.

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“We do not encourage people to seek out vaccine at a different location. And we would really ask that any of those pharmacy partners who are offering second doses to those who have been vaccinated elsewhere, please make sure that that second appointment gets canceled either through our phone lines or however you can.”

Expanding access to second dose re-booking

Ontario health minister Christine Elliott also said Thursday that the province was looking into the potential to drop the over-80 requirement and expand re-booking access to all ages “to make sure that anybody who wants to receive their second vaccine can get one as quickly as possible.”

Mackie says if that comes to pass shortly, the local health unit won’t immediately follow suit.

Read more: Stay-at-home order lifted but public health guidelines still critical: MLHU

“We’re not going to rush to re-book everybody with their second doses earlier until we’re sure we’ve got as many first doses in arms as we can, or at least people have the opportunity to book those.”

He said he expects second appointment re-booking to open up to the general public “sometime over the next month or so.”

“We have the advantage of being in a separate booking system here in London and Middlesex, which means we can adjust eligibility for the needs of our local community.”

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Second doses for those who received AstraZeneca’s vaccine

Also on Thursday, the province updated guidance on mixing and matching vaccine doses to allow those who got a first shot of AstraZeneca to get another brand if desired, effective June 4.

Ontario residents who received one shot of AstraZeneca can choose to take a second dose of AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine dose such as Pfizer or Moderna.

“All of those now have been supported by the federal level and at the provincial level for second doses for AstraZeneca,” Mackie said, encouraging those impacted to return to their original provider (e.g. pharmacy, family doctor) for their second dose.

Read more: Some Ontario hospital measures revoked in response to improving COVID-19 trends

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He also explained that the MLHU is not currently able to provide mix-and-match second doses at its mass vaccination clinics.

“We don’t have a process in the provincial vaccine tracking system to give people second doses of a different vaccine. I understand the province is working on the back end of that software so that it will allow that.”

As of the end of day May 29, MLHU data shows that 56.9 per cent of residents age 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

— With files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues and The Canadian Press’ Holly McKenzie-Sutter.

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