Health experts worried Canadians are ditching Moderna vaccine appointments

Jun 18 2021, 9:29 am

Some Canadians are ditching their Moderna vaccine appointments favouring a Pfizer shot, and health officials are trying to combat the Moderna hesitancy.

The push to reassure Canadians that Moderna is nearly identical to Pfizer comes as a massive shipment of Moderna comes into the country — a record 8.5 million doses are arriving this week in addition to the usual 2.4 million weekly shots of Pfizer.

“Moderna and Pfizer are both messenger RNA vaccines. They are interchangeable, and the efficacy is within data points,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said during a news conference Thursday. “Take it. Because it will protect you and your loved ones.”

In both Ontario and BC, the provincial booking systems don’t disclose which mRNA vaccine is on offer when someone schedules an appointment. Individuals find out when they get to the clinic.

In some cases, people have left their appointments when they find out it’s Moderna being injected.

The hesitancy may be due to brand loyalty to Pfizer since it was the first COVID-19 vaccine to get approval. One individual Daily Hive spoke with said a colleague ditched their Moderna appointment because they heard the short-term side effects were worse than Pfizer’s. 

One Canadian doctor criticized those rejecting Moderna when many people worldwide don’t have access to any vaccine yet. 

“Having access to two vaccines that both provide incredible protection is a privilege that isn’t afforded to many in other countries. So when it’s your turn, please take the first one you get,” Toronto palliative care physician Dr. Naheed Dosani said in a tweet. 

The National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommends Canadians complete their two-dose mRNA vaccine regimen with the same brand where possible. But in cases where the same brand isn’t available, NACI says Pfizer and Moderna can be considered interchangeable.

According to a June 14 family health article from Yale Medicine, research suggests the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing infection with COVID-19, while Moderna is 94.1% effective.

Health experts say the main difference between Pfizer and Moderna is how they’re stored and transported. Pfizer requires deep cold storage around -70°C, but Moderna can be transported at regular freezer temperatures.

Dr. Kelly Grindrod, associate professor of pharmacy at the University of Waterloo, tweeted that Moderna is her preferred vaccine because it’s easier to get to more people.

“Pfizer is an ultra-cold, fragile, multi-step vaccine designed for urban areas of wealthy countries. Not great for a global pandemic. Moderna is ready-made, easy to use, and stable. Moderna wins,” she said.

Toronto-based Dr. Hemant Shah says that when he’s vaccinating, people tend to want Pfizer — and he has to explain why Moderna is equally effective. People usually accept the Moderna shot after a short conversation.

“We understand their concerns and educate,” he tweeted. “No one has left without getting it.”

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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