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COVID-19 vaccine intervals may soon be reduced as B.C. enters 'warp speed'

Province due to accept 275,000 doses from Pfizer this week

British Columbians may soon find themselves waiting less time for their second COVID-19 vaccine dose than originally expected as the province prepares to accept record numbers of doses in the coming weeks.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that with increasing supplies beginning this week, officials are now examining whether to reduce the current 16-week interval between doses.

The province is due to accept 274,950 doses of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine this week — up significantly from the 138,060 doses delivered by the manufacturer each of the preceding three weeks.

That pace is set to accelerate each week through to the end of June with 328,770 doses expected weekly at the peak.

But Henry acknowledged that there have been “glitches” with the province’s IT system used for recording every dose every British Columbian receives amid reports of vaccine doses administered at pharmacies not being properly logged.

“We will take care of those glitches,” she said.

“In some ways, we’ve been building a spaceship as we’ve been flying it. And we’re now entering into a new era, a new warp speed, if you will.”

Henry said the concern is not that people will be missed, but that those who have received their first dose at a pharmacy may get an invitation for what would be their second dose before they are in fact eligible to receive it.

More than 4.5 million doses are due to arrive in B.C. between this week and the end of June.

Henry said it’s possible all 4.3 million eligible British Columbians may get their first dose “significantly” before Canada Day.

“I think by the middle of June, we should be well on our way,” she said.

To date, 1,785,599 British Columbians have received at least one dose, while 91,731 have received two doses.

And while nearly 136,000 Moderna Inc. doses are due to arrive in B.C. the week of May 10, the country is still awaiting updates about the pharmaceutical company’s future delivery schedule.

There are currently no scheduled deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine but Henry said she’s been assured federal officials are working at securing more supply.

The uncertainty over future AstraZeneca doses has created questions about how British Columbians will get their second doses.

Henry said health officials are observing studies underway in the U.K. in which different vaccines are being mixed and matched with each other for first and second doses.

“It may turn out that it is a better, stronger immune response to receive a second dose with a different vaccine. We don’t know that yet,” she said.

“We should get information by the end of this month.”

Meanwhile, earlier Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.

Similar to AstraZeneca plc, use of the J&J vaccine has been linked to a rare number of blood clots.

NACI is now recommending the vaccine to people 30 and up.

NACI’s advice serves only as a recommendation — not a mandate — to provincial health officials who ultimately decide how the vaccine is administered.

torton@biv.com

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