With supply running out, Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca

Grant Boone
May 12, 2021

The province's top doctor said the decision was made out of "an abundance of caution".

"We want to do all we can to boost that production because I have heard from some of my colleagues in neighbouring countries, from the government of Bhutan, about their concern that India, of course, is having to divert a lot of its existing production to its own domestic needs, which is absolutely understandable", he said.

"We look forward to providing more guidance in advance of people needing to receive their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine", said Williams, who noted that the decision to pause AZ was made not only due to VITT, but as the result of increasing supplies of other vaccines (specifically those by Pfizer and Moderna).

On Tuesday, Alberta public health officials announced that the province will halt the first doses of this viral vector vaccine, and saving the remaining doses it has for second-round shots.

That would remove the risk of rare but serious blood clots, which have not been linked with Pfizer and Moderna.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was being offered to individuals aged 40 and up at numerous pharmacies across the province.

Alberta has administered approximately 255,000 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Another four cases have tested positive for the B.1.617.2 coronavirus strain first detected in India. The experts, however, said the new variants detected in South Africa were not driving the surge.

It is up to provinces to decide how they'll administer vaccines, but Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Tuesday she understands supply constraints.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended April 23 that people at low risk from COVID-19 wait to get vaccinated until they can access Pfizer or Moderna rather than get AstraZeneca immediately.

"Data from the United Kingdom points to a much reduced risk of VITT in second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and we look forward to providing more guidance in advance of people needing to receive their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine when their time for the second dose comes".

Dr. Eddy Lang, department head of emergency medicine at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, says there appears to be no definitive evidence as to whether mixing and matching separate vaccine doses is a good idea but says the uncertainty is no reason to delay getting an initial vaccination.

So far, 10.19 million doses of different vaccines - Sinopharm, SinoVac and CanSino - have been procured from China.

That variant is the dominant one in Canada.

When asked how soon the World Trade Organization (WTO) members could agree on a temporary patents waiver to help boost vaccine supply, Smith said that the U.S. was taking other steps as well to ensure more vaccines were available to the world. Officials have said another 650,000 doses are expected this month, and an additional million in June, though no precise dates have been given.

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