Health officials are hoping to fast-track how quickly all eligible British Columbians will receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The province is expecting all adults in the province will have the option to receive their first dose before the end of July.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday that the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine will be extended to 112 days.
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Pfizer, one of the manufacturers, has recommended a 21-day gap between doses and the province previously was spacing them out by 42 days.
The province is also expecting to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as next week, which will allow some essential workers to get the shot ahead of their age group.
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“The extension of dose two will make a big difference in our ability to vaccinate our mass population,” Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the province’s vaccination plan, said Monday.
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“It will likely result in mid-to-late July we will be able to give a first dose to everyone in our population, which is a significant shift in our original plan. We will come back with more details on this.”
There is still no approved COVID-19 vaccine for children and teenagers in British Columbia.
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Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead for influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, has convinced provincial health officials that spreading out doses will not jeopardize the vaccine’s effectiveness.
In a letter to the editor published in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored with Dr. Gaston De Serres of the Institut National de Sante Publique du Quebec, Skowronski argues the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine initially said to be just 52.4 per cent effective with one dose could provide more than 90 per cent protection with a single shot.
According to Skowronski and De Serres, Pfizers own research started measuring the vaccine’s efficacy immediately after a dose was administered, not after a two-week grace period, which is typical in vaccinology.
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Using documents submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the doctors say they determined Pfizers vaccine is actually up to 92.6 per cent effective with a single dose.
“These are decisions that have gone through our immunization committee, our public health team,” Henry said.
“We have such good protection from these vaccines after the first dose. We will be focusing on second doses in the summer.”
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The province originally estimated all eligible British Columbians would receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by September.
–with files from Aaron McArthur, Simon Little and The Canadian Press
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