B.C. out of AstraZeneca vaccines amid surge in demand at pharmacies
VANCOUVER -- Just days after expanding its pharmacy-based COVID-19 vaccination program to those ages 40 and older, B.C. is now functionally out of AstraZeneca vaccines, health officials said Thursday.
During their news conference on the province's response to the coronavirus pandemic, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix were asked about growing wait-lists at pharmacies, particularly on Vancouver Island.
Henry said there had been "a lot of uptake" of the pharmacy-based program across the province.
"We have very little of it left in the province right now," Henry said.
Dix elaborated to say that the 13 hotspot communities the province has been targeting for accelerated vaccination still have doses, but there have been thousands of appointments booked for the AstraZeneca shot in those places too.
"We provided 180,000 or so doses of vaccine through the pharmacy network and, in general, those doses have been used or appointments have been booked and they will be used," Dix said. "So, in most areas of the province, that supply is used up. It was limited. It was the amount that we had."
Henry said B.C. has not received any shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine since last week, and the province isn't sure when it will receive more.
"We are hearing positive things," she said. "We know the Government of Canada is working very strenuously to try and get access to more vaccine, particularly from our neighbors to the south, and we hope that we'll get some more in the next little while."
Henry said she's received "lots of questions" about what the delays in the AstraZeneca supply might mean for people who have had a first dose when it comes time to get their second.
She said there are two factors working in the province's favour on that front. First, because second-dose appointments are being scheduled for four months after first doses, officials have a significant amount of time to secure more AstraZeneca vaccines, Henry said.
Second, the province is also looking closely at trials being conducted in the United Kingdom that look at mixing vaccine doses. A local immunologist told CTV News Vancouver on Wednesday that he believes it's likely to be safe and possibly even beneficial to get a different manufacturer's vaccine as a second dose.
"Those studies aren't done yet," Henry said Thursday. "When we know those things, we'll be offering the options to people in the coming weeks and months."