Albertans who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are being asked to call 811 to book their second shot, rather than booking online.
A notice atop Alberta Health Services’ online booking tool had a bolded message saying those who received an AstraZeneca shot “must call Health Link” to book a second shot.
AHS spokesperson Lisa Laferriere said the health agency is asking for such bookings to be made over the phone due to vaccine supply and logistics.
“Health Link will ensure those who wish to receive it are booked at a clinic near them, with the soonest available appointment,” said Laferriere.
During an announcement outlining expanded second dose eligibility in Edmonton Friday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said AstraZeneca is more effective if there is an eight-week window between each dose. People who have received an mRNA vaccine are asked to book after four weeks.
“If your first dose was AstraZeneca, we recommend that you wait at least eight weeks for your second dose to ensure maximum protection,” said Shandro. “That’s not because of any concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine or because of supply or, or anything else, it’s because it actually works better if you give it a little longer between those doses.”
Shandro announced Friday afternoon that anyone who received a first shot in May can now book a second appointment. Anyone who has gotten an initial shot in June can book after four weeks have passed.
Laferriere said in an email Saturday evening there had been 235,000 second-dose appointments booked since 2 p.m. Friday.
Earlier this week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated their recommendations to say that receiving an mRNA vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna, is preferred to receiving AstraZeneca.
“(This recommendation is) based on emerging evidence of a potentially better immune response from this mixed vaccine schedule and to mitigate the potential risk of VITT associated with viral vector vaccines,” reads the updated recommendation.
NACI clarifies that having two shots of AstraZeneca continues to provide strong protection against infections and is effective in preventing serious outcomes.
Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said the new recommendation generally aligns with the approach the province has been taking for several weeks.
“To date, the vast majority of those who have gotten a first dose of AstraZeneca in Alberta have opted for a second dose of mRNA vaccine,” said McMillan in an email. “Both vaccines are good and will help protect you against COVID-19. The choice is up to each Albertan, but there is emerging evidence that mixing doses can produce an even stronger immune response.”
He said there have been approximately 278,000 doses of AstraZeneca administered in Alberta, including 256,800 first doses and 21,200 second doses.
Meanwhile, the province reported 127 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday from 5,055 tests, with a positivity rate was 2.45 per cent. There are 2,170 active cases across Alberta, the lowest that number has been since Oct. 8.
There are 221 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 49 in intensive care.
As of end-of-day Friday, 70.4 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and up had received at least one shot of vaccine and 27.3 per cent had received two doses.