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British Columbians who received one dose of AZ will be able to choose second shot

FILE -- Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead, Manitoba Vaccine Implementation Task Force draws a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Winnipeg, Friday, March 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

B.C.'s top doctor is promising more data so people who received one dose of AstraZeneca can make an informed decision

Close to 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that B.C. has on hand is nearing expiration

Nearly 56 per cent of all eligible adults in B.C. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine so far

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – British Columbians who got the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for their first dose will be able to choose which shot they want for their second.

B.C.’s top doctor is promising more data for people in the coming weeks so they can make an informed decision. That data is expected to include more results from a study in the U.K. that is looking at mixing and matching different vaccines.

“You will have the options of receiving the second dose of AstraZeneca, and we have stocks coming in to be able to support that, or you can take the information, once we have it, and make your own decision about what you want for your second dose,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.

“First week of June we expect to have all of the results in from the immunogenicity studies that were done in the U.K. and other places to understand if there is the same or better protection from receiving the AstraZeneca first and then a Pfizer vaccine second.”

Henry notes with increased supply of other shots arriving in the province, people may be able to get their second shot sooner than expected. Currently, B.C. is administering second doses up to four months after the first. This standard was brought in earlier this year when supply and deliveries were a problem across Canada.

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Henry says despite the province likely being able to move up second doses for some, she points to studies that have shown waiting up to four months comes with benefits.

“That waiting that extra period of time actually gives you a better immune response, even in older people,” she explained.

The developments come as about 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine B.C. has on hand nears expiration. The doses are supposed to be used by the end of June.

However, Henry is asking people not to panic.

“I ask people to be patient. We know that we have some time as your immune system is developing its protective response to your first dose,” Henry assured.

Nearly 56 per cent of all eligible adults in B.C. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine so far. All adults 18 and over are now eligible to book a vaccine.

Meanwhile, Henry says B.C. will be doing what it can to help India and other countries that are being gripped by the virus.

She says global efforts are underway to ensure more fridge-friendly vaccines, like the AstraZeneca shot, are available for these countries, where deaths and ICU numbers continue to rise.

“One of the key factors that went into us determining that we didn’t need more AstraZeneca vaccine and that we were going to reserve the supply we had for second doses and for people who can’t, for a varient of reasons, have the mRNA vaccines is because we didn’t want to draw more from the global supply of this very important vaccine, and make sure that it’s available where it’s needed,” Henry said.

However, she notes B.C. will move ahead with its rollout plans for children, despite urgings from the World Health Organizations for countries to put such programs on hold in order to help those harder-hit.

-With files from Marcella Bernardo