AstraZeneca second dose 'good choice' despite federal guidance: B.C.'s top doctor

VICTORIA — There is no wrong choice for a second COVID-19 vaccine dose despite recommendations from a federal panel that people who received Oxford-AstraZeneca first should choose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna for a second shot, says British Columbia's top doctor.

New guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Thursday said Pfizer or Moderna is preferred as a second dose based on growing evidence that the combination produces a stronger immune response and the risk of rare vaccine-induced blood clots associated with AstraZeneca.

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Previously, the committee said AstraZeneca recipients could choose to get a second dose of the same vaccine or a different shot.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the panel's recommendation arises from a small study in Germany, but other studies show all vaccines provide excellent protection from COVID-19 and two doses of any of the vaccines are safe and effective.

"We still know from the information that we're seeing here in B.C., but also primarily in the U.K., where a lot of AstraZeneca has been used, that vaccine effectiveness is very good for both AstraZeneca and the mRNA vaccines," she said at a news conference.

Henry said anybody who received two doses of AstraZeneca can be assured they received a safe vaccine.

"The bottom line is the very real-world experience and evidence shows us that we have good protection across the board with both vaccines in our community," she said. "We can be very reassured that two doses of whatever vaccine you receive are safe and effective and work here in B.C."

Henry said she will continue to monitor data and studies tracking the effectiveness of the vaccines.

B.C. will not change its immunization advice, leaving the choice of which vaccine to get up to individuals, she said.

Henry said people in B.C. can feel safe that picking AstraZeneca for their vaccine "was a good choice to make."

"There's no wrong decision here," she said. "If you got two doses of AstraZeneca, you can rest assured you got a safe vaccine."

Health Minister Adrian Dix said supply issues from the federal government will mean fewer doses than expected of the Pfizer vaccine will be available in B.C. for the first two weeks of July, but those numbers will be made up by the end of July.

He said more than 4.2 million people in B.C. have received their first COVID-19 vaccine, which amounts to 76.5 per cent of adults or 74.8 per cent of all those eligible aged 12 and above.

About 770,000 people have received their second vaccine shots, said Dix.

B.C. reported 120 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday, bringing the provincial death total to 1,739 people.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2021.

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