Second dose of vaccine to be delayed for British Columbians so more can quickly get the first shot
VANCOUVER -- The manufacturers of the two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada recommend only half the supply be used immediately with the other half held in reserve for the required second dose, but B.C.’s rollout strategy does not follow that advice.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 22.
According to the pharmaceutical giant’s timeline, she should get the second dose three weeks from that day, but that’s not going to happen for Henry, or most others in the first group of British Columbians to get the shot.
“We made the decision that for December and January all of our doses of Pfizer and Moderna will be going to protect people with their first dose,” Henry said at a Tuesday coronavirus briefing.
The recommendation from Moderna is that people receive the second dose of its vaccine 28 days after the first dose.
But instead of delivering only half the available doses and saving the other half for timely second shots, the province is giving the first doses to as many people as possible right away, and that means for many the second dose will be delayed.
“We have looked at when we’re expecting to get vaccine and how much vaccine we’re getting, and on average, our second dose will start to be given in February, which means for some people it will be about 35 days, so an extra week,” Henry said.
In the midst of this deadly second wave, University of Toronto infectious disease expert Dr. Allison McGeer, a member of the nation’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, says rolling out the first dose as quickly as possible is the right move.
“If we delay for a few weeks the second dose, it’s not going to make any difference to people,” said McGeer.
She said data shows the first doses to be 82 percent effective within a few days of being administered.
“And so then the question is really simple: Is it better to get 82 per cent protection to 100 per cent of people? Or 90 per cent protection to 50 per cent of people?” she said.
“That’s like a, well, duh question, right? Very obviously, what we need to be doing is getting the doses into people’s arms and worrying about the second dose later.”
The province expects 549,000 British Columbians to get the first shot by March, with a quarter-million of those also receiving their second dose by then.