No AstraZeneca vaccine has been administered in Northumberland

Steady supply of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines expected during April & May 

Article by Valerie MacDonald

It’s a changing vaccination world out there.

There have been opposing directions over the past month or so about who should and should not, be given Astra Zeneca vaccinations. The most recent view from the National Advisory Committee’s guidelines on Immunization is a “pause” in dispensing it to those under the age of 55.

Previously, it was seniors who were advised not to take Astra Zeneca.

Both directions were based on the data at the time available from testing and vaccinations underway in Europe. A small number of people, given the millions of vaccines administered, have suffered blood clots. Officials are erring on the side of caution with the pause, Canadians have been told.

At this time, almost all of the Astra Zeneca (194,500 doses) brought into Ontario has been used by their April 2 expiration date through the pilot projects involving designated pharmacies and doctors’ offices, according to a technical briefing on the rollout held by the Provincial Government on March 31. None of this vaccine was given in the local health unit’s jurisdiction.

Although more of the vaccine is expected to be delivered to Ontario (including 10,800 doses to the local health unit early in April), delivery has not been confirmed with certainty at this time, the briefing stated.

Because of this back and forth on the age of people who should be given Astra Zeneca, we asked the Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, of the Haliburton Kawartha Ridge District Health Unit, a series of questions. These are his answers:

With the new guidelines for Astra Zeneca for those under 55, how will this impact the rollout of vaccinations in the local health unit?

 The temporary pause in providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to people under age 55 won’t have any effect on the vaccine rollout at mass immunization clinics in Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. To date, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) has not received any doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in its area. The only vaccines we have received so far are the ones from Pfizer and Moderna.

At this stage in Ontario, the AstraZeneca vaccine is being provided only to people 60 years of age and older, either through select pharmacies or some primary care physicians in six public health unit regions. None of these locations are within the HKPRDHU’s area (Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes).

What does this mean to those who have already been given Astra Zeneca and what their booster shot will be?

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s (NACI) updated guidelines on the use of AstraZeneca advises the vaccine not be given to anyone under age 55 until safety concerns associated with blood clots can be further investigated. NACI isn’t questioning the effectiveness of AstraZeneca vaccine; it just wants more information to ensure there are no problems.

Millions of people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine to date, without problem. The vaccine is safe, effective, and worth getting if you have the opportunity to get a dose, as it will offer protection against COVID-19.

People who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be offered a second dose until four months after their initial dose, according to the policy of Ontario’s Ministry of Health. It is expected that further information on whether the AstraZeneca safety concerns that have been raised have validity will have been received by then.

If you have been given Pfizer or Moderna, do you have to have boosters of the same vaccine?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to get full protection against COVID-19.  In Ontario, people who are vaccinated will receive two doses of the same vaccine, as the studies to prove the interchangeability have not been completed. Currently, the time between getting a first and second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is up to four months.

Was the amount of vaccination allocated to the local health unit reduced recently? And if so why?

Typically, HKPRDHU learns on a weekly basis what our vaccine shipments will be. However, delivery issues or delays can cause fluctuations between the number of vaccine doses we expect compared to what is actually received.

During the week of March 15, HKPRDHU received 3,500 doses of Pfizer. For the week of March 22 to 26, we received 5,800 doses of Pfizer and 2,100 doses of Moderna. This week, we are expecting to receive 5,850 doses of Pfizer and 1,100 of Moderna. 

HKPRDHU has been notified of upcoming vaccine shipments and is expecting to receive 5,850 doses of Pfizer a week. This amount has been confirmed for two weeks and we are hoping to see that amount continue throughout April and into May. This is approximately the amount of Pfizer vaccine we were scheduled to receive before the forecast of the reduction (reduction has been reversed). As well, we are expecting to receive 4,800 doses of Moderna next week with a hope that we may receive more Moderna in the coming weeks.

Please provide up to date information about who should be registering for the vaccination at this time  (age/ year of birth) and the internet and phone numbers to use.

 The Province has developed a vaccine distribution plan to guide the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The plan features three phases with priority populations identified in each phase. HKPRDHU is currently vaccinating those identified by the province as being eligible under Phase One, as well as older persons over age 75. People who are not yet eligible by age should watch for the announcements that the age groups have been expanded. In the meantime, they are asked not to call the provincial booking system as their appointment cannot be made until the age group is expanded. Residents are also reminded that local pharmacies and their family physicians do not yet have the AstraZenca vaccine at this time.

 People who are eligible can book a vaccination appointment through the provincial booking system. To make an appointment, visit: www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call 1-888-999-6488. Please do not call the Health Unit, as we are not doing bookings.

 Other individuals may also be eligible to receive the vaccine, based on health issues and other factors. To see if you are eligible, visit the Health Unit webpage called ‘Are You Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine?’

When asked about how soon symptoms can appear after exposure and testing related to this, Dr. Gemmill replied: “Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person-to-person, as well as different age groups. Typically, symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear after exposure.

If a person has a known exposure to COVID-19 and has had a negative test, a re-test may be recommended/indicated if the test date was less than 7 days from the date of exposure.

“Follow-up testing is recommended between 7-10 days from the last exposure. However, all close contacts of a known COVID-19 exposure are required to quarantine for 14 days.

“Rest assured, all measures are taken by public health to ensure anyone exposed to COVID-19 or who tests positive for the virus follows proper measures to isolate or quarantine for the required time to ensure the virus isn’t spread to others.”

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