No AstraZeneca left on Island for those scrambling to find pharmacy doses

The supply of AstraZeneca vaccine in Island pharmacies has run out after huge demand from those age 40 and up, with some diverted to high-risk spots in other parts of B.C.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the ­province hasn’t received any more AstraZeneca since last week, but hopes more is coming.

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B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said this week saw the ­lowest supply of vaccines coming into B.C. “for some time,” with only 138,060 doses of Pfizer arriving. A similar shipment is expected next week, along with 87,000 doses of Moderna, which is less than expected. The week after that, Pfizer shipments are set to double.

AstraZeneca doses that B.C. was supposed to receive in April didn’t arrive, Henry said.

“We know the government of Canada is working very strenuously to try and get access to more vaccine, particularly from our neighbours to the south,” she said. “We hope that we’ll get some more in the next little while.”

The AstraZeneca doses the province does have are being targeted to 13 hot spots, none of which are on the Island.

This month, the vaccine was made available to those ages 55 to 65 after Health Canada paused the vaccine for those age 55 and younger, asking for further testing in the wake of rare vaccine-induced blood clots. B.C. subsequently delayed the AstraZeneca rollout to essential workers and instead allocated Pfizer and Moderna shots for first responders, teachers and those in high-risk workplaces.

On Monday, Henry expanded access to remaining doses of AstraZeneca in pharmacies to those age 40 and up, but all were quickly snapped up, with pharmacies receiving hundreds to thousands of emails and calls as residents scrambled to source a shot.

As for second doses, Henry said more supply is likely coming from the United States or Europe and that given the province is administering doses 16 weeks apart, there is “a little bit of time” to sort that out.

Henry said she’s monitoring research being conducted in the United Kingdom into whether doses from different manufacturers can be used for first and second shots.

“We are also watching the mix-and-match studies that are happening in the U.K. and whether it might be better for people to get their second dose with an mRNA vaccine, for example, to give added protection for a longer period of time,” said Henry.

Dix said Thursday that immunization rates on the Island are among the highest in B.C., in part due to a rollout that ­prioritizes seniors because they are more susceptible to serious illness and death from the virus.

“There are more of our elders on Vancouver Island than in other communities,” said Dix.

While 30 per cent of British Columbians have been vaccinated with first doses, on the Saanich Peninsula that number was 38 per cent. Rural and remote Indigenous communities have also been vaccinated, and several communities are being vaccinated now.

“Vancouver Island is doing very, very well in its immunization,” said Dix.

To date, 1,500,430 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the province.

Henry appealed to all British Columbians to get vaccinated.

Today, everyone 18 and older is eligible to register for a COVID vaccine in B.C. Henry said vaccination bookings were expected to begin Thursday night for people 60 and over.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

> To register for a vaccination, go online to gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated or phone 1-833-838-2323, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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