A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Canada's national vaccine advisory panel is set to issue guidance today allowing for people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as their first dose to get an mRNA vaccine for their second.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

AstraZeneca recipients can get Moderna or Pfizer for second dose: advisory committee

AstraZeneca recipients can get Moderna or Pfizer for second dose: advisory committee

OTTAWA — Canadians whose first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine came from Oxford-AstraZeneca can safely be offered a second dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said Tuesday.

The news should ease the fears of some Canadians who got the AstraZeneca shot before much was known about its potential link to a rare but serious new blood clotting syndrome.

It comes as chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam reported Canada’s COVID-19 infections are down 70 per cent from the third-wave peak in mid-April, and 20 per cent from just last week.

Hospitalizations are down 40 per cent, and ICU admissions and deaths are both down 25 per cent, compared to mid-April, she said.

Tam said Canadians have “stepped up to do their part at every turn” of this pandemic and the hard work is paying off.

That included, she said, getting vaccinated, with more than 21.9 million people now at least partly vaccinated against COVID-19, including 2.1 million fully vaccinated.

Canada is moving more quickly to get second doses into arms — about one in five new shots in the last three days were second doses, compared to fewer than one in 10 in most of May.

“Public health authorities are now compressing that second dose now that vaccines are more available,” Tam said. “They will not be going to 16 weeks.”

She noted however that real-world data has shown waiting eight to 12 weeks to give a second dose is producing a stronger immune response than going with the three to four weeks that were used in the initial clinical trials.

With vaccine supplies now more plentiful, most provinces have moved in the last week to cut the second-dose wait from 16 weeks down to eight to 12 weeks.

All provinces had halted the use of AstraZeneca for first doses, and some weren’t even using it for second doses pending the NACI guidance that came today.

The committee’s advice is based on interim results from studies in the United Kingdom and Spain showing mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines is safe, and in the Spanish study, effective. Further results from those studies are expected this month.

NACI also said vaccines from different manufacturers for other illnesses are routinely mixed as long as they show similar effectiveness, target the same populations, and use similar antigens, a molecule on the outside of a virus that makes it unique.

Tam said the NACI decision is entirely driven by the risk of vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia.

“If it wasn’t for that, then probably one would progress with giving the same dose as the second dose,” she said.

Canada joins Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Spain among countries mixing and matching vaccines because of the risk of VITT.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island moved immediately to begin offering AstraZeneca recipients a second dose of an mRNA vaccine if they wish, joining Manitoba which did so Monday, and Quebec, which began allowing it last week.

“While AstraZeneca is still a good choice, we will offer Albertans a choice,” said Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro Tuesday afternoon.

Quebec still recommends people get the same vaccine for their second dose and noted the risk of VITT is about one in 60,000 people for the first dose, but about one in 600,000 after the second.

NACI’s guidance did not stipulate a preference for which vaccine AstraZeneca recipients should get second.

NACI says for people who got Pfizer or Moderna first, the second dose should be the same unless supply issues prevent that.

AstraZeneca Canada issued a written statement responding to the advice, saying they will continue to work to understand the reports of rare blood clots, but that the vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19. It has been authorized in more than 80 countries.

“We fully respect the recommendations outlined today by NACI in their advisory role for the use of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada,” the statement says.

Forty-one Canadians have now had a confirmed or suspected case of VITT and five have died, out of almost 2.2 million people who received the vaccine to date.

More than 1.5 million Canadians got AstraZeneca as a first dose before NACI advised on April 23 that AstraZeneca doses should only be given to people over the age of 30, who were at high risk of contracting COVID-19, or of getting seriously ill from it.

Ontario and Quebec both reported their lowest daily case totals since the fall Tuesday — 699 in Ontario, the lowest since mid-October, and 208 in Quebec, the lowest since September.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault — still basking in the Montreal Canadiens NHL playoff series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night — was all smiles as he told Montreal residents they will be able to dine at a restaurant next week for the first time since Oct. 1.

“Things are going very well everywhere in Quebec,” Legault said in French.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said his province had just 209 new cases Tuesday, down from more than 2,000 a day a month ago, and thanked Albertans for getting vaccinated and helping to “crush the spike” in COVID-19 cases.

“This is where we start to live the promise these vaccines have brought,” said Kenney.

Ontario is still mired in heated arguments about whether schools can reopen for the final weeks of the school year with cabinet discussing the issue Tuesday. Ontario schools have been closed since mid-April.

The province’s stay-at-home order expires Wednesday, but it doesn’t change much, with non-essential retail still limited to curbside service only, and all restaurants restricted to takeout, currently until June 14.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Most Read