B.C. aims for end of summer for second vaccine shot for all, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor says she's set an end-of-summer target for everyone in the province to receive their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced Thursday a decrease in the time between the first and second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, cutting the interval to eight weeks from 16 weeks.

The province has enough supply of those vaccines to cut the wait time between the first and second shots, she said.

But the interval for people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as a first dose and are waiting for their second AstraZeneca shot may take longer.

"I'm asking you to hold tight for a few more days," she added.

Henry said the province is waiting for results from international data on AstraZeneca, including the effectiveness of mixing vaccine shots and ongoing concerns about rare blood clots.

But Henry did set a goal for everyone to get a second vaccine dose.

"I anticipate everyone will have their second dose by the end of summer," she told a news conference.

Quebec said Thursday it will shorten its wait time between the first and second AstraZeneca shots to eight weeks. Health Minister Christian Dubé said the decision to reduce the wait times is based on advice from the province's immunization committee.

Henry said a second vaccine dose adds protection for the community.

"Protection through immunization is what we need to focus on right now. It ensures you have maximum protection for a maximum amount of time."

B.C. was the first province to extend the length of time between doses to a maximum of 16 weeks in order to spread the protection throughout the population while there was a shortage of vaccines.

Henry said the rollout of second doses will be similar to the first dose, with those at the greatest risk at the top of the list.

She said seniors, Indigenous people and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be getting their invitations to book a second shot.

"People can expect to receive that invitation between now and the weekend," Henry said. "They are essentially first in line."

Henry said the province will try to ensure that everyone gets the same vaccine they were first administered, but a shortage of the Moderna vaccine may mean that people will have to substitute it for a Pfizer shot.

She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has reviewed the evidence on using different vaccines and has updated the guidance, confirming that while it is preferable to have the same product, it's not always possible.

"If that is the case, we now have good evidence that it's safe to have an alternative of the same type of vaccine."

Pfizer and Moderna are the same type of vaccines, she said.

"This is the approach that we will be taking. As much as possible we'll try to make sure that everybody gets the second dose with the same product they had for their first dose," she said.

B.C. reported 378 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths, bringing the provincial death total to 1,690 people since the pandemic began.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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