B.C. has a new workhorse vaccine; time for 'Team Pfizer' to drop any brand loyalty

A new workhorse vaccine

B.C.’s vaccine program has a new workhorse.

The bulk of the COVID-19 vaccines administered to date in the province have carried the Pfizer brand, something that will be changing in the coming weeks, according to health officials.

That means B.C. residents will need to drop any brand loyalty they may have after receiving their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

During a news conference Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said this week B.C. is expecting 896,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, 327,000 doses of Pfizer and 10,000 doses of AstraZeneca.

“If you are like me, and received Moderna as your first dose, you are now likely to receive Moderna as your second dose. But many, many people who received Pfizer as their first dose will receive Moderna as their second dose,” said Dix.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said they will strive to keep both versions of the vaccine in stock at vaccine clinics, but the numbers make that impossible.

She said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which both use mRNA technology, should be viewed as interchangeable — like water bottled by different companies.

“The mRNA vaccines really are… they are very much the same antigen, the part that stimulates the immune system. They are wrapped in a different lipid nanoparticle, but other than that, they are interchangeable,” Henry said.

She said there has been some degree of "brand shopping" by B.C. residents on vaccines, with social media selfies posted with "Team Pfizer" or "Team Moderna" hashtags, but she urged residents to view them as one and the same.

B.C. reached a milestone Tuesday, reporting that a little over one million people have now been fully vaccinated with both doses.

Minister Dix provided an update on vaccine progress across age ranges:

  • Over age 70: 89% one dose, 55% second dose
  • Over age 60: 87% one dose, 41% second dose
  • Over age 40: 82% one dose, 29% second dose
  • Over age 30: 80% one dose, 20% second dose
  • Age 12 and up: 76% one dose, 21% second dose

Fewer British Columbians are opting to stick with the AstraZeneca vaccine for their second dose following recommendations last week from the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI).

Dix confirmed Tuesday that immunizers had been administering about 6,000 doses daily of the vaccine prior to NACI’s June 17 recommendation that AstraZeneca recipients get a jab from an mRNA vaccine for their second dose.

That number has since fallen to about 4,000 doses a day.

But both Dix and Henry said the province is not declining AstraZeneca shipments from the federal government in light of this recent trend.

Henry said AstraZeneca, a viral vector vaccine, might be preferable for those who have allergies to mRNA vaccines such as the ones developed by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.

You can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here.

with files from Tyler Orton

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