Blaming a “limited supply,” BC health officials said this week they will be holding all remaining quantities of AstraZeneca vaccine in the province specifically for second doses.
“Existing pharmacy bookings will proceed, but no additional appointments will be accepted at this time,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.
At the same time, they said, BC has “ample” vaccine supply, and “everyone will receive their second dose within 16 weeks of their first vaccine.”
Henry and Dix said health officials are also still awaiting the findings of studies currently underway on interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
“This will help determine our approach and options for second doses.”
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The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been associated with rare but severe blood clots involving low platelet counts. Research suggests the risk of developing a clot could be 1 in 100,000, but new cases of clots in Ontario pushed that risk ratio to 1 in 55,000 this month, prompting health officials to stop administering first doses of it.
Alberta also stopped giving out AstraZeneca as a first dose, citing supply constraints.
Canada registered to buy 20 million doses of AstraZeneca, but only one million have arrived so far. Many of those shots are now administered, and Ontario says the remaining doses will be used for second-dose appointments, as well.
Still health officials reiterate that getting the first dose of AstraZeneca was a smart move, especially in areas with high COVID-19 transmission.
As the risk of a blood clot is present in the first few weeks after vaccination, medical experts say if 28 days pass with no clot symptoms, recipients are likely in the clear.