B.C. health officials will delay the second doses of vaccines fighting COVID-19 yet again amid ongoing supply shortages.
The first and second doses of the Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. vaccines will now be administered 42 days apart for the time being.
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed the change to the vaccine rollout Monday (January 25) after she was informed over the weekend that there will be less Pfizer supply than initially expected for the first week of February.
Pfizer informed Canadian officials last week that it would not be sending any vaccine doses to the country this week as the pharmaceutical giant attempts to revamp its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
Henry did not state how much vaccine is expected from Pfizer next week.
Pfizer originally recommended a 21-day gap between the first and second shots, and Moderna originally recommended 28 days.
Both now recommend a 28-day gap, but Henry emphasized in early January that evidence shows that the vaccines are still effective even if that gap is extended further.
B.C. extended that gap to 35 days in a bid to administer as many first doses as possible.
But that gap has now been extended to 42 days as a result of the Pfizer shortage.
Moderna has not throttled its deliveries to Canada, however, Ottawa is depending on a larger number of Pfizer orders in the early days of the vaccination efforts.
As of Monday, B.C. has administered 119,850 doses: 87,788 doses from Pfizer and 32,062 from Moderna.
Henry also revealed there have been 56 reports in B.C. of adverse events following administration of the doses.
Among those events were 10 reports of anaphylaxis.
“That is slightly more than we would expect based on other immunization programs such as influenza, for example,” Henry said.
So far, one person has been hospitalized following a bad reaction to the vaccine and there has been one reported case of Bell’s Palsy — a temporary paralysis in the face.
There have been 16 allergic reactions to the two vaccines but no associated deaths.
Last week, B.C. unveiled its plans for vaccinating the general population once the most vulnerable groups receive their doses through to the end of March.
The province has been able to administer doses to 33,025 staff at long-term care centres and 25,701 residents of those centres.
From February to March, the province will focus mainly on administering doses to seniors over 80, hospital staff and Indigenous seniors over 65.
Inoculations of the general population will commence in April, zeroing in on British Columbians 79 years and younger in descending five-year age brackets (e.g. 75-79 first; 70-74 second).
If more vaccines are approved (only the Pfizer and Moderna have been given regulatory approval in Canada), the province also plans on expanding vaccination to those aged 18-64 who are front-line essential workers or who work in specific workplaces or industries.
Those doses would be administered sometime in the spring.