Manitoba ‘adjusting its approach’ in using AstraZeneca vaccine

WINNIPEG — Manitoba health officials announced the province is “adjusting its approach” in how it uses the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Wednesday, Manitoba’s vaccine task force said it will now be holding its current and future supply of AstraZeneca doses for second-dose appointments only.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba’s Vaccine Task Force, said this change is in response to ‘ongoing evidence’ and supply chain issues.

“AstraZeneca has had a bit of a bumpy road in their rollout, which has been unfortunate,” Reimer said, adding a recent export ban out of India has made supply of the vaccine an issue.

She said despite the fact there was a low risk of blood clots, the province still had to use the vaccine as a tool to protect Manitobans as quickly as possible.

“Our message has been consistent throughout and remains consistent – that AstraZeneca offered protection to Manitobans at a time when we didn’t have mRNA, so Pfizer and Moderna, to offer to everyone.”

Reimer said the province is confident the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, but because there is now more supply of mRNA vaccines the province is switching gears.

“We need to respond to the disruptions in supply so that the many thousands of people who have already had their first dose of AstraZeneca can be confident that we will have a second dose available for them when they get to that point,” Reimer said.

The province said as of Wednesday 84,260 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered.

Reimer said some first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will still be handed out on a case-by-case basis for people who are not able to get to other sites.

She said the task force is also monitoring whether different types of vaccines can be used for second doses. She said research studies coming later this month will help the task force finalize its plans for second doses.

“I want to reassure Manitobans that anyone who received the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose will receive a second dose, either of AstraZeneca or one of the mRNA vaccines,” Reimer said.

She said the shift will not affect the province’s goal to give a first dose to all Manitobans 18 plus who want the vaccine by June 8.

“If you got the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as you were eligible – and I know a lot of people in the 40 and up age category did that – You did the right thing,” Reimer said.

“We thank you for following the public health guidance, for protecting yourself, and for protecting the people around you, even as we change our approach now that our mRNA vaccines are much more robust in supply.”

Vaccine task force co-lead Johanu Botha said if second doses require the AstraZeneca vaccine, the province will need more supply. He said the province has about 7,000 doses on hand, and has about 23,000 doses allocated from the federal government.

Reimer said regardless, anyone who received a first dose of AstraZeneca will receive a second dose of a vaccine.

“If we don’t have enough, we will offer mRNA vaccines to those who can’t get AstraZeneca,” Reimer said.

Age eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine in Manitoba remains at people 40 and older, and people 30 to 39 who have specific health conditions. 

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