Ontarians won't get choice of second mRNA shot when booking appointment
Ontarians booking their second COVID-19 shot through the provincial booking system are signing up for whichever mRNA vaccine is available that day, and won’t be informed whether it’s Pfizer or Moderna until their appointment time at the vaccine clinic.
During a vaccine technical briefing Thursday, officials said the province is booking appointments based on vaccine supply, not on brand.
The province now considers Pfizer and Moderna interchangeable. Health officials used to say matching the brand of first and second dose was ideal, but the guidance has since been updated.
“Take it, because it will protect you and your loved ones,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said during a news conference Thursday.
Individuals will always have the right to refuse a vaccine at their appointment time, health officials confirmed.
Ontario is expecting an influx of Moderna in June, with more than 300,000 new doses expected to arrive this month. Pfizer will still be the most common shot in the province though, with nearly 3 million doses scheduled to arrive in June.
There have been reports of hesitancy among Ontarians to get a Moderna shot, but health officials say it’s equally as effective and beneficial as Pfizer. There have been no safety concerns or increased adverse events after vaccination with Moderna compared to Pfizer.
“Moderna and Pfizer are both messenger RNA vaccines. They are interchangeable and the efficacy is within data points,” Jones said.
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Youth will only be able to book Pfizer appointments because it’s currently the only COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada for use on minors. That may change soon though because Moderna applied to Health Canada for approval for use in kids 12 and up in June.
Health authorities in Ontario are working to convince young people to get fully immunized against COVID-19 in the summer before a return to in-person classes in the fall.
Nearly half of teens age 12 to 17 in Ontario have received one dose of vaccine, and the province is running youth clinics targeting teens to make sure more get their shots before September.
Youth clinics began operations on May 23, and between August 9 and 22 they’ll be focused on getting teens their second doses. Second doses for youth under 18 may be accelerated from the August 9 start date, but details are yet to be confirmed.
Second doses accelerated in three more Delta hotspots
Ontario is adding three more health regions to its list of Delta variant hotspots. People living in Hamilton, Simcoe-Muskoka, and Durham will be eligible to book their second shot starting on June 23.
Officials also said Ontario is administering doses at a fast pace for its population size. In mid-June, it passed Israel, the US, and the UK to give a higher proportion of people a first dose. Canada still lags behind those countries when looking at second doses.
Ontarians who received AstraZeneca for their first dose may now choose to either receive a second AstraZeneca shot or an mRNA jab for their second dose. AstraZeneca recipients need to wait for a minimum of eight weeks between shots, whereas people who get two mRNA shots only need to wait 28 days.
Waiting longer between AstraZeneca doses can provide increased protection. Research suggests getting the second dose at an eight-week interval provides 69% protection, but waiting 12 weeks increases efficacy to 82% protection.
Health officials advise there may be increased short-term side effects when mixing vaccine types including headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.