Manitoba approves different second dose after initial AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

·2 min read

WINNIPEG — Manitoba residents who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as their first shot against COVID-19 can now get their second dose from a vaccine made by a different company.

The province has approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna as a second dose option for people who are eligible.

"Your choosing AstraZeneca as the first vaccine that was available for you was, and still is, the right decision," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province's vaccine rollout.

COVID-19 cases have surged significantly in Manitoba in recent weeks and health-care capacity has been pushed to the brink.

The province reported 303 new cases and one more death from COVID-19 on Monday. Officials said a technical error meant the day's numbers were under-reported and they were expecting a jump in positive cases Tuesday.

There were 308 people in hospital and 71 intensive-care patients with COVID-19.

A total of 36 people have been transferred to another province for care.

About 75,000 Manitobans received the AstraZeneca vaccine as their first dose. Reimer said if those people hadn't jumped on the chance to get vaccinated, it's likely some of them would have ended up in hospital.

"You were protected from COVID weeks earlier than you otherwise would have been," she said.

Supply issues have prompted most provinces to stop using AstraZeneca. Pfizer shipments have been consistent and Moderna is expected to ramp up in coming weeks.

Reimer had previously said she would wait for the results of a United Kingdom study on mixing doses before making a decision. The release date for that study was pushed back until late June, which Reimer said is too late for Manitobans needing to get vaccinated.

"People want to know what vaccine they will get."

The change in plan will not affect the goal to have 70 per cent of Manitobans fully vaccinated by the end of July.

There are about 3,700 doses of AstraZeneca at medical clinics and pharmacies that were set to expire Monday. Health Canada has said those doses can be used until July 1.

Reimer said they will be saved for the people who cannot have the other vaccines.

She also apologized after about 15,000 people were sent an email saying their appointments were cancelled on the weekend.

Reimer said the email was due to human error while the team was practising how to cancel appointments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2021.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press