PHO plans COVID-19 vaccination blitz as interval between second shot pushed back

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B.C. is going against manufacturer's advice, delaying the COVID-19 follow-up shot with the goal of vaccinating as many people as possible.

Shannon Warnock was one of the first on the island to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

“I was excited when I got the third phone call, ‘you’re my third phone call!’ the lady said from VIHA,” Warnock recounted.

She works in a long-term care home while also taking care of her 84-year-old mother, so the protection from COVID-19 means the world.

Now 19 days post-vaccination, she’s due for her second dose.

The problem is Warnock still hasn’t received a phone call to book the second dose.

“When the vaccines were being made, we heard that you had to have the second one in 21 days otherwise it’s not as effective,” said Warnock.

“To hear that I’m only half vaccinated is to do a job only halfway.”

She’s not the only health care worker concerned either.

“I am getting inundated by emails from nurses who have been vaccinated in this province who are very concerned about the fact that their second dose has been delayed,” said Christine Sorenson, President of the BC Nurses Union.

Also expressing their worry are the Doctors of BC.

“We are meeting with the government including the PHO to discuss the vaccine rollout schedule and some of the issues that have been raised including supply, priority groups, and the interval between first and second shots,” Doctors of BC told CHEK News in a statement.

Based on clinical trials held by the manufacturers, the Canadian federal government currently suggests the Pfizer shot should be spaced out by 21 to 28 days and the Moderna shot by 28 days.

The province’s top doctor, however, says there’s new evidence that immunization levels with just one dose, are much higher than expected.

“What that data shows for Moderna and Pfizer is two weeks after the first dose, the protection is very very high, in the 85-90 percent range,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday.

Researchers have found the Pfizer vaccine to be 52 per cent effective after one dose, however, more recent research argues efficacy continues to rise, citing up to 89 per cent by 15 days after the first shot.

The Moderna shot is estimated to be 80.2 per cent effective after a single dose.

Canadian researchers are looking at evidence of delayed second doses too, predominantly the National Advisory Committee, from which an update is expected soon.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says the interval can be extended up to six weeks (42 days), however, it recommends the 21-28 day interval.

In the rapid race for vaccination, the Provincial Health Officer (like the U.K. and United States under incoming President Joe Biden), is pushing back the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna, so more people can get vaccinated.

“The science bears out that this is a reasonable approach that maximizes our ability to protect more people during the most infectious period where we have the highest rates of transmission,” said Dr. Henry.

The public health officer is promising everyone in British Columbia who gets the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, will get a second dose 35 days later.

Meanwhile, those working in healthcare – who signed up for what they thought was a second dose coming 21 days later – are disappointed in the lack of communication.

“I mean we get the information on how many new cases are on the island or in B.C.,” said Warnock.

“Keep us informed about this. This is important.”

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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