Fewer British Columbians are opting to stick with the AstraZeneca plc COVID-19 vaccine for their second dose following recommendations last week from the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI).
Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed Tuesday that immunizers had been administering about 6,000 doses daily of the vaccine prior to NACI’s June 17 recommendation that AstraZeneca recipients get a jab from an mRNA vaccine for their second dose.
That number has since fallen to about 4,000 doses a day.
But both Dix and B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is not declining AstraZeneca shipments from the federal government in light of this recent trend.
Henry said AstraZeneca, a viral vector vaccine, might be preferable to those who have allergies to mRNA vaccines such as the ones developed by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna Inc.
Henry said it’s about a “50-50” split between first-dose AstraZeneca recipients who are now sticking with the same product and those who are opting for an mRNA vaccine.
“Many people committed to getting two doses of the same vaccine and I think that is a perfectly valid decision to make,” she said, adding she recommended that to her own family members
Henry repeatedly emphasized that the two mRNA vaccines approved for use in Canada are interchangeable.
“They’re just packaged slightly differently,” she said at one point during the Tuesday briefing.
B.C. is presently facing relatively low supplies of the Pfizer vaccine — about 40,000 doses are left, according to Dix — as it awaits a shipment of 327,600 doses due to arrive at some point this week.
A total of 380,880 Pfizer doses were originally expected to arrive in B.C. the first week of July. Instead, 121,680 doses are now due to arrive that week.
But Dix said last week that the lower numbers will be made up for by the end of July.
Moderna shipments, which had been sporadic in previous months, have proven more reliable as of late and are currently making up the bulk of supplies at mass vaccination clinics.
This week 378,420 Moderna doses are due to arrive in the province, followed by 382,760 doses next week.
To date, 2,899,319 British Columbians — or 76.2% of the eligible population 12 and older — have received at least one vaccine dose while 1,101,192 people are fully vaccinated.
Henry said the goal is to have all British Columbians who wish to be fully vaccinated to reach that status by the end of July.
But she said it’s possible that some people who may just be receiving their first dose will find themselves spilling over into early August, as first and second doses are currently being staggered by eight-week intervals.