As more COVID-19 vaccines arrive, provinces look to revise vaccination timeline

Armed with four approved COVID-19 vaccines and possible dosing gaps, Canadian provinces are now aiming to review their vaccination timelines and get more people immunized earlier than projected.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the newest to be approved by Health Canada, which unlike the others, requires just a single dose.

Canada has pre-purchased 10 million doses, and has options to buy another 28 million doses. Additionally, the country is expected to receive 12.8 million doses between April to June, from Pfizer alone.

Read more: Extended gap between COVID-19 vaccine shots could fast-track vaccination: feds

From a logistical standpoint, this could imply faster vaccination across all provinces.

The Manitoba government has already announced that it’s possible everyone in the province 18 and older who wants to get a COVID-19 vaccination may have the chance to do so by May 18.

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The numbers for Manitoba, released in a technical briefing to the media Friday, say if vaccine supplies are steady, it will move up first-dose vaccinations by months.

Some 18,000 doses of the newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in the province next week, and will immediately be distributed to eligible clinics and pharmacies, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, said Friday.

Click to play video 'Manitoba moves to delay second dose of coronavirus vaccine' 1:48Manitoba moves to delay second dose of coronavirus vaccine

Manitoba moves to delay second dose of coronavirus vaccine

“We’re very confident in the data that we’ve seen so far regarding the effectiveness in the real world of the first dose,” Reimer said.

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Federal authorities said Friday that the four vaccines that have been approved in Canada may have different efficacy rates, but data shows they all are safe and can prevent severe illness and impact hospitalization from COVID-19.

Read more: Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

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The Ontario government too has declared that it is now looking to have all eligible residents who wish to get a vaccine, have their first shot completed by June 20.

“We’ve had a seismic shift in our vaccination opportunities and the program to roll it out,” said retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine' 0:38Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The recent approval of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the extended gap between first and second doses will allow the province to “crush those timelines really tightly.”

Read more: Ford government aims to have all eligible Ontarians receive 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot by June 20

“Our aim would be to allow the province of Ontario to have a first needle in the arm of every eligible person who wants it by the first day of summer,” Hillier said. “Please be patient a little while longer.”

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The province is currently nearing the end of Phase 1, in which those living in long-term care homes, retirement homes, as well as staff and front-line workers were targeted.

More than 820,000 doses have been administered and at least 269,000 Ontarians have been fully immunized with two shots.

Earlier this week, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that provinces and territories extend the interval between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses up to four months.

“Extending the dose interval to four months allows NACI to create opportunities for protection of the entire adult population within a short timeframe,” the committee said.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Health officials urge people to take whichever vaccine available regardless of efficacy rate' 0:41Coronavirus: Health officials urge people to take whichever vaccine available regardless of efficacy rate

Coronavirus: Health officials urge people to take whichever vaccine available regardless of efficacy rate

Following the advisory, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin announced that everyone in the province could get their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June.

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British Columbia too, is expecting all adults in the province to have the option to receive their first dose before the end of July.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday that the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine will be extended to 112 days.

Read more: Canada getting 1.5M additional Pfizer vaccine doses in March

Efficacy studies of the vaccine have shown that receiving a first shot of the vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective for at least a few months, Henry said.

“That is why I am so confident that the decision we made, over this weekend, to extend that interval is the best one based on all of the science and the data that we have to maximize the benefit to everybody in our community here in B.C.,” Henry added.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also said Thursday that the prairie province would also follow suit and extend the gap between doses. Other provinces, such as Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador have suggested they plan to do the same.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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