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COVID-19: Mayors of hot spot Peel Region want shorter dose interval for AstraZeneca recipients

Click to play video: 'Provinces get green light from NACI to mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccines' Provinces get green light from NACI to mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccines
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe to use as a second dose option for Canadians who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as their first. That gives provinces the green light to use the mix-and-match vaccine approach, which some have already adopted. Abigail Bimman explains the evidence behind NACI's decision, and how it will impact Canada's rollout. – Jun 1, 2021

TORONTO — Mayors in an Ontario COVID-19 hot spot are joining calls for the government to reduce the vaccine dosing interval for Oxford-AstraZeneca recipients as a more infectious variant spreads in the province.

Residents who got a first shot of AstraZeneca currently must wait 12 weeks between doses in Ontario, but other provinces have shortened the gap to eight weeks.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown wrote to the premier and health minister on Friday asking that Ontario follow suit with an eight-week gap between doses.

“Residents should have the choice to be fully immunized sooner so they have better protection against variants,” wrote Brown, whose community is part of Peel Region, where the Delta variant has been spreading. “Help us crush COVID in Peel!”

Read more: 2nd COVID-19 shots prioritized to Ontario hot spots with high Delta variant starting June 14

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Brown’s Mississauga counterpart, Mayor Bonnie Crombie, also wrote a letter calling for a shorter dose interval. She said residents who took a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine helped curb the third wave of COVID-19 and are now being left less protected.

“They are watching family members and friends register (for) and receive second doses, and it is simply not fair,” Crombie wrote in her letter Friday.

Calls have been growing for Ontario to shorten the dosing interval for AstraZeneca recipients as the more infectious Delta variant spreads. Doctors, politicians and those who got AstraZeneca have been urging the government to change its position.

Scientific evidence shows people with one vaccine dose are less protected against the Delta variant.

An online petition asking the government to shorten the interval to eight weeks for those who got AstraZeneca had more than 2,800 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

Gareth Williams of Burlington, Ont., said he started the petition after he grew frustrated watching second shots get moved up for others.

“We seem to be forgotten,” Williams said by phone.

“I think a lot of people are in the same boat as me. They got it themselves and a lot of other people who have family members that have received it and are frustrated.”

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READ MORE: Peel Region to see Delta variant as dominant COVID-19 strain, top doctor says

Starting Monday, residents of seven Delta variant hot spots who got a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on or before May 9 and book accelerated second doses. Those aged 70 and older can already book faster second shots.

AstraZeneca recipients, however, must still wait 12 weeks for their second shot, whether they opt for another dose of the same vaccine or a shot of a mRNA vaccine.

Ontario has maintained that 12 weeks is the most effective dosing interval for AstraZeneca, with Health Minister Christine Elliott calling it the “gold standard” on Thursday.

The province’s associate chief medical officer of health has noted, however, that the province is reviewing data on the issue.

“We’re very actively looking now at the data with Public Health Ontario and are actively considering the intervals for those individuals,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Thursday.

The head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association said AstraZeneca recipients should be able to choose whether to get an earlier second shot in light of the spreading Delta variant or wait for 12 weeks to become fully vaccinated.

“The benefit of getting people fully vaccinated outweighs any potential decrease in optimal efficacy,” Justin Bates wrote on Twitter.

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Ontario stopped administering first doses of AstraZeneca in May over what it said was an increased risk of rare but serious blood clots. It had given out nearly a million doses of the vaccine by that point.

– With files from Denise Paglinawan.

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