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B.C. advice on AstraZeneca 2nd dose unchanged as feds recommend switch to mRNA vaccines

Click to play video: '‘Our advice has not changed’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on second dose of AstraZeneca in B.C.' ‘Our advice has not changed’: Dr. Bonnie Henry on second dose of AstraZeneca in B.C.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update at her Thursday COVID-19 briefing after the latest announcement from the National Advisory Committee on Immunisation (NACI) on mixing and matching vaccines for those who received AstraZeneca as their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine – Jun 17, 2021

British Columbia health officials aren’t changing their advice on whether people who got the COVID-19 AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine should choose it as their second dose.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the comments Thursday, after Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its own guidance, recommending people choose an mRNA vaccine — such as Pfizer or Moderna — for their second dose.

Read more: mRNA COVID-19 vaccines should be 2nd dose after AstraZeneca shot: NACI

“Our advice in B.C. has not changed,” Henry said.

“You make the choice that is right for you because all the vaccines that we have here in use in B.C. are safe and highly effective, and so are all of the options.”

NACI said the updated guidance came from research showing an improved immune response among people who got an mRNA vaccine as their second dose, following a first dose of AstraZeneca.

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“I wish to emphasize that people who received two doses of AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine should rest assured that the vaccine they received provides good protection against infection, and very good protection against severe disease and hospitalization,” federal chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said.

Read more: COVID-19: B.C. pharmacies getting supply of AstraZeneca 2nd doses Monday

Henry said NACI’s updated guidance followed preliminary evidence from a “small” German study, and that while it added to the information available about vaccine effectiveness, it wasn’t enough for the province to change its approach.

Real-world experience, she said, showed that “the vaccine effectiveness of AstraZeneca was exactly the same as from two doses of mRNA,” she added.

Click to play video: 'B.C. health official answers questions about AstraZeneca vaccine as second dose' B.C. health official answers questions about AstraZeneca vaccine as second dose
B.C. health official answers questions about AstraZeneca vaccine as second dose – Jun 7, 2021

Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said NACI’s updated guidance was “preliminary” and “advisory,” and intended to help people make a decision about their second dose amid rapidly evolving science.

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“AstraZeneca, followed by AstraZeneca, is absolutely not a bad choice, there should be no buyer’s remorse in people who did that — there should be no buyer’s remorse in individuals who go to AstraZeneca and are scheduled to get AstraZeneca next,” he said.

“If this information is leading to some uncertainty for individuals before they get their second dose, I would strongly encourage them to discuss it with an expert, a health professional, who can properly advise them and they can make the right decision for themselves.”

B.C. is currently offering people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine as a first dose their choice to get the same vaccine again, or switch to whichever mRNA vaccine is available when their turn comes up.

B.C. has administered more than 300,000 doses of the vaccine, including nearly 64,000 second doses.

The province suspended the use of AstraZeneca for first doses in May citing supply issues. Other provinces that suspended first doses of the vaccine also cited concerns about rare blood clots associated with it.

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

“Both approaches are highly effective, but mixing an mRNA after a dose of AstraZeneca may give some boost to the immune system, but we don’t know whether that translates to better protection or not,” Henry said.

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“We can be assured that (choosing AstraZeneca as a first dose) was a good choice to make, the vaccine is safe and it works, and many people want to ensure they have the same vaccine for their second dose. But this does tell us that it is certainly a very good choice to mix and match as well.”

Click to play video: 'Which vaccine should you get for your second dose if you had AstraZeneca for your first dose?' Which vaccine should you get for your second dose if you had AstraZeneca for your first dose?
Which vaccine should you get for your second dose if you had AstraZeneca for your first dose? – Jun 7, 2021

Henry added that the province is not concerned that people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine will be discriminated against in other parts of the world, and said her “expectation” was that WHO-approved vaccines will be accepted globally.

That followed news that a Bruce Springsteen musical production on Broadway in New York will not sell tickets to people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine, because it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Officials in B.C. continue to monitor global studies into vaccine effectiveness and mixing, and will notify the public if at any point their guidance changes, Henry said.

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