N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 3,100 rebooked shots, including some who wanted Pfizer, not Moderna

·9 min read
A delayed shipment of 49,140 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now arrived, with another 49,140 doses expected this week. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A delayed shipment of 49,140 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now arrived, with another 49,140 doses expected this week. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Some New Brunswickers who were supposed to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week through a regional health network clinic refused to be given a Moderna vaccine instead because of a shortage, the Department of Health says.

And more than 3,000 people who had an appointment booked to receive Pfizer through Horizon or Vitalité cancelled after being told they were going to get Moderna instead.

That doesn't include people who had appointments booked through pharmacies.

"It is difficult to say why those cancellations were made," said department spokesperson Shawn Berry.

"We know people sometimes cancel because they need to change their appointment time, get an earlier appointment at another location or are unwell or otherwise unable to attend their appointment."

A delayed shipment of 49,140 doses of Pfizer on June 21 prompted Public Health to switch people with Pfizer appointments between June 22 and June 25 to Moderna.

Both are mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines and are "completely interchangeable," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell has said, drawing a comparison to taking Advil or Motrin for a headache.

There were 20,441 people registered for Horizon and Vitalité clinics that were listed as offering Pfizer who were offered Moderna between June 22 and June 25 because of the delay in the shipment, said Berry.

"I am aware that there were some refusals," he said.

"In some larger clinics offering 1,500 to 2,000 doses, they were reported to be a couple of dozen people per day."

Within a couple of days, 3,147 people had cancelled their appointments.

Berry said, "there were certainly cancellations in that number" that occurred before June 21. He could not provide any statistics.

By comparison, of the 15,316 people with Horizon and Vitalité appointments to receive the Moderna vaccine during the same period, there were 681 cancellations.

Not everyone was notified

Some people who had Pfizer appointments received an email notification of the change to Moderna.

"Due to the allocation of vaccines from the [federal] government we must change this clinic day to the Moderna vaccine," the notice said.

"You are welcome to keep your appointment on this date and location — which means you will be receiving the Moderna vaccine.

"If you would like to cancel and rebook yourself to a Pfizer clinic you are welcome to do so. … Thank you for your understanding."

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

But an unknown number of people didn't receive a notice about the last-minute change.

Eric Tucker of Hanwell said at least six of his friends who had appointments at the Brookside Mall clinic in Fredericton didn't find out until they sat down in the chair to get their shot.

Tucker, 38, and his wife Heather, 32, were booked to get a second dose of Pfizer at the same clinic on June 25. They "heard some rumours" that Moderna was going to be given out so started checking the Horizon website.

"It wasn't saying 18-plus, which was kind of our hint that Pfizer was being used because I know Moderna is not approved for under 18," he said. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for use in Canada for anyone under the age of 18.

They decided to keep their appointments, and if they were offered Moderna, they would just leave because they aren't comfortable with the idea of mixing and matching vaccines.

But "after Thursday, when we heard about a couple more friends who were more or less bait-and-switched, we ended up cancelling our appointment," said Tucker. "And nobody informed us. We weren't told."

Submitted by Eric Tucker
Submitted by Eric Tucker

Tucker is upset about the "lack of communication."

"I think that at the very least, an email from the booking system would have been appreciated, like some kind of a communication that, 'Hey, heads up that you're going to end up getting Moderna.'"

Berry said the changes were "publicly announced and reported in the media."

He did not respond to a request for information about how many people received no email notification.

It's unclear how such a last-minute change affects informed consent.

He also failed to explain why some people received email notifications while others did not.

"Those changes were required because a shipment of vaccine did not arrive as scheduled due to circumstances outside of our control, so the vaccine for those clinics was not available," he said in an emailed statement.

"Besides clinics over those four days, there has been no instance where we have had to change the vaccine being offered."

Tucker contends people who chose Pfizer and couldn't get Pfizer should have been automatically rebooked to the next available appointment offering that vaccine.

As it stands, he and his wife are now rebooked for mid-July. "Given what happened … I'm not 100 per cent confident that it'll actually pan out," he said.

So they're also on the wait list at a couple of pharmacies.

"Whatever the first place is to get a Pfizer shot into our arm, that's where we'll go and then we'll cancel any other appointments."

Berry did not say how much Pfizer the province has in stock but did say the delayed shipment arrived "late last week," and another shipment of 49,140 doses is expected this week.

People who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine as their first dose, are now being offered either Pfizer or Moderna as their second dose, regardless or their age, said Berry.

"If an mRNA vaccine is contraindicated or the patient wants a viral vector vaccine, AstraZeneca/Covishield can be offered."

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recently updated its recommendations for people who received AstraZeneca for their first dose to say an mRNA vaccine is "preferred" as the second dose and mitigates the rare risk of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — a condition that causes blood clots combined with low platelets, the committee said.

Two New Brunswickers have died from VITT after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. Two others also suffered blood clots following vaccination, but recovered.

About 43,000 New Brunswickers received a first dose of AstraZeneca and as of June 18, only about 4,100 had received two doses.

Nearly 32% double-dosed

Nearly 32 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers aged 12 or older are now fully vaccinated, according to the COVID dashboard, while 77.6 per cent have received at least one dose.

A total of 11,759 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered Monday, including 10,897 second doses.

This pushes the seven-day second-dose average to "well over 11,000," says Oliver Dueck, a software developer based in Fredericton who has been tracking the province's vaccine data for the past few months.

At the current rate, he said, the province is on track reach its goal to have 75 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by July 24 — nine days ahead of schedule under the path to green, when all Public Health restrictions will be lifted, provided COVID hospitalizations remain manageable and all regions are still at the yellow COVID alert level.

People are eligible for a second dose once at least 28 days have passed since their first dose.

Half of everyone currently eligible is now double-dosed, said Dueck, up from 48.2 per cent on Monday.

People can book a vaccination appointment online through a Horizon or Vitalité health network clinic or through a participating pharmacy.

For their second-dose appointment, they are asked to bring a copy of the record of immunization they received after getting their first dose, a signed consent form and their medicare card.

3 new cases, 25 active cases

Public Health reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and four more recoveries, putting the province's total active case count at 25.

Two of the new cases are in the Moncton region, Zone 1. Both of these people are in their 30s and their cases are travel-related.

The other new case is in the Edmundston region, Zone 4. This person is in their 20s and is a contact of a previously confirmed case.

Three people are in hospital in New Brunswick with the respiratory disease, none of them in intensive care.

A total of 361,977 COVID tests have been conducted, including 501 on Monday.

There have been 2,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, with 2,258 recoveries and 45 COVID-related deaths.

Atlantic COVID roundup

Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, for a total of 51 active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador has no new COVID-19 cases and five active cases.

Prince Edward Island has a new case for the first time since June 3. The province had been without any active cases for about two weeks.

Latest public exposure

Public Health has identified a positive case of COVID-19 in the Fredericton region, Zone 3:

  • Lake George Petro Canada Gas Station and Restaurant, 10 Route 635, Lake George, June 19, between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Public Health is offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who has been in a public exposure area, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. Residents may request a test online or call Tele-Care 811.

People experiencing one or more symptoms are also encouraged to get tested.

Previous public exposures

Public Health has identified a positive case of COVID-19 in a traveller who may have been infectious while on the following flights:

  • Air Canada Flight 404 – from Toronto to Montreal, departed at 8:30 a.m. on June 18.

  • Air Canada Flight 8902 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 12:45 p.m. on June 18.

Public Health has also identified numerous potential public exposures to the coronavirus in many communities across the province, so many that it has stopped listing them individually in its daily news release.

A detailed list of the potential exposures, including the locations and dates, is available on the government's COVID-19 website. It is updated regularly.

What to do if you have a symptom

People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.

Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:

  • Fever above 38 C.

  • New cough or worsening chronic cough.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

  • New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.

  • Difficulty breathing.

In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with one of those symptoms should:

  • Stay at home.

  • Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions.

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