Second dose appointments for some COVID-19 vaccines will open Friday in Manitoba, but those who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab will have to wait a little longer.
The newly opened appointments will be reserved for priority groups with certain health conditions or compromised immune systems who have already received a first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, officials said during a technical briefing Wednesday morning.
Evidence suggests waiting a minimum of three months before getting a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine maximizes the immune protection, Dr. Joss Reimer said Wednesday.
Reimer spoke at a news conference where daily COVID-19 numbers are usually reported, but the update that typically comes out daily at 12:30 p.m. was delayed Wednesday due to a technical issue, the province said.
Manitoba is adhering to that rule generally for now, and based on when AstraZeneca shots were rolled out, that means those who have received one shot of that vaccine will have to wait to book a second dose.
In some cases, doctors or pharmacists may administer second doses of AstraZeneca when circumstances suggest a patient would benefit from an earlier shot, said Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine task force.
People who will receive priority access to Pfizer and Moderna second doses include those on dialysis or taking certain immune suppressing medications, as well as people with severe heart failure, liver cirrhosis, HIV or Down syndrome. Organ and stem cell recipients are also on the list.
Anyone who has home care more than four times a week or who receives round-the-clock support from the Community Living DisAbility Services program will also get access Friday.
A full list of priority conditions is available on the province’s website.
Reimer urged even vaccinated Manitobans to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible if they’re symptomatic.
“Err on the side of caution,” she said. “We want you to be safe, and we want you to keep those around you safe and going for a test is your best option.”
The second dose announcement comes a few days after Manitoba opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone 12 and up and saw a record number of appointments booked in a day.
So far, about 53 per cent of adult Manitobans have received at least one dose.
Everyone who is eligible and interested is expected to have the first dose by June 9.
This week Manitoba expects to receive over 73,700 doses of Pfizer, 37,600 Moderna and 23,000 AstraZeneca.
Reimer announced last week that the province will mostly pause first-dose appointments of the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing recent news about the vaccine and supply issues.
AstraZeneca will mostly be reserved for people who received that vaccine for their first dose. After that, it’s unclear when Manitoba will receive more AstraZeneca, provincial officials said.
Manitoba is considering giving at least some of those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca, which uses a viral vector technology, a second dose of an mRNA-based product, such as Pfizer or Moderna, Reimer said earlier.
However, Botha said on Wednesday that Manitoba is holding off on recommending the mixing of different vaccines until more studies are released.
Manitoba launched a public opinion survey on Wednesday in hopes of learning more about hesitancy and perspectives on vaccines, and personal experiences with the immunization process or COVID-19.
The hope is survey results will reveal hesitancy trends that can inform education and outreach programs targeting specific communities with reservations about getting immunized, Reimer said.
Manitoba will also soon begin posting vaccine uptake rates online with breakdowns by regional health authority, sex, and first and second doses, she said.
The province expects to open a second supersite in the Northern Health Region early next month, bringing the number of those immunization centres to 12.
Those eligible for vaccination can visit the province’s website to book an appointment or call 1-844-626-8222.