Manitoba to limit 1st dose appointments of AstraZeneca

The province is pausing administration of first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for most Manitobans in light of supply issues and recent news about the vaccine.

First doses of the vaccine can still be administered at doctors’ offices and pharmacies, but only in cases where individuals who may not otherwise be immunized with other vaccines at alternate sites, the province said in a news release.

Moving forward, most AstraZeneca doses will be earmarked for Manitobans who have received a first dose of that vaccine. Those people can expect to start booking second dose appointments in June.

The decision won’t impact Manitoba’s immunization timelines, according to the release. As of Wednesday, the province projects everyone 12 and up will have their first dose shots done by June 6-9.

The news comes on the same day Manitoba expanded vaccine eligibility to all adults.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the task force, will speak about the AstraZeneca decision during a 12:30 p.m. news conference. CBC Manitoba is streaming it here and on Facebook, Twitter and CBC Gem.

Three provinces this week decided to suspend their AstraZeneca campaigns or reserve future doses for those who received that shot as a first dose.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout will be put on pause for first doses in Manitoba as the province saves them for second doses. (Valentina Petrova/The Associated Press)

Alberta and Saskatchewan cited supply chain issues in deciding to pause AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, Ontario suggested it’s beginning to see an uptick in rare but serious blood clots associated with that vaccine known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).

Out of about 2.3 million doses of AstraZeneca administed in Canada, there’s been about a dozen confirmed cases of VITT as of early this week, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Manitoba health officials, including Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin early this week, continue to insist the vaccine is a safe option and the protection it confers against COVID-19 outweighs any risk of blood clots.

Reimer has also previously hinted the province could begin mixing and matching vaccine varieties if clinical data from trials elsewhere supports the move.

Canadian health officials are reviewing data on this now, but some scientists say there’s reason to believe mixing and matching could boost a person’s immune response beyond what’s possible with receiving the same shot twice.

Currently AstraZeneca makes up a small portion of vaccines received by the province, with 84,260 doses shipped to the province to date. 

It’s been given out in doctors’ offices and pharmacies, something that wasn’t initially possible for other vaccines with extreme cold storage and transportation requirements.

Manitoba is, however, running a new pilot to have some doctors and pharmacists provide Moderna vaccines.

To make an appointment at a supersite or pop-up clinic, where Pfizer and Moderna are administered, use the province’s online booking portal, or call 1-844-626-8222.

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