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B.C.’s vaccines to be prioritized for first doses, second shots will come in February, says Dr. Henry

Last Updated Dec 30, 2020 at 7:16 am PDT

A health worker extracts a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the military base in Queretaro, Mexico, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. The first batches of vaccines produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech arrived to Mexico the previous day. (AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme)

Between now and February, all COVID-19 vaccine will be used for first doses

By stretching the time between the first and second doses of vaccine, more people can be protected: Dr. Bonnie Henry

Pfizer recommends a 21-28 day window, but Henry says it's safe for B.C. to go about 35

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After careful deliberation and consideration of ethical implications, B.C.’s top doctor confirms all available vaccines will go to protect as many people as possible with their first doses while the necessary second shots will be delayed.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization does allow for an extended dosing schedule, however Pfizer’s recommendations are to store some doses now with the intention of using them within 21-28 says as second injections.

However, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explains there is strong evidence the vaccines are at least temporarily effective before the second dose is given.

“We can do that and protect almost twice as many people as if we started giving the second dose in the short-time frame that’s in the product monograph,” she said Tuesday, adding the protection begins within two weeks of the first dose.

RELATED: B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases trend downward as deaths, hospitalizations remain high

The change in strategy means all vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna arriving in B.C. for at least the next month will be given to people on the priority list, but they won’t start getting their second doses until February.

“This was all very much up-in-the-air even as late as last Wednesday and Thursday,” said Henry.

She said one reason to prioritize first doses is because the only vaccines that are absolutely guaranteed to arrive are those coming this week and next.

There is a minimum period between doses, but there isn’t an outside limit between the shots, she says. For some, they will be getting their second dose about a week later than recommended.

“That is the decision we’ve made here in B.C. and we’re comfortable moving forward with this now,” she said.

During the latest provincial modelling, Henry said the extended period will maximize the number of people vaccinated.

Virus variant means ‘less room for error’

The vaccine decision comes as the more contagious variant has been detected in B.C., and Henry urges everyone to tighten their layers of protection, especially over the remaining holidays.

“We have less room for error. It means we cannot have more than our small group of household contacts,” she said. “Even a smaller dose of the virus can lead to transmission and infection and others.”

She’s telling British Columbians the only place to be on New Year’s Eve is safe at home.

“Now, I have another ask of you – to give the people in our healthcare system and in our essential services the reprieve they need, we need to make our entire holiday season a quiet holiday season,” she said. “Absolutely toast the year to come, and continue your cultural, your family traditions, but we must do this without the usual house parties and celebrations this year.”

Provincial health orders in place until Jan. 8 ban visiting other households.

To date, 11,930 British Columbians have been vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine, while Moderna vaccine arrived in northern B.C. Tuesday night.