Several Canadian provinces will be administering second doses of COVID-19 vaccine earlier than expected, due to the high number of people who have received their first dose so far, and a big supply of vaccine.
Most provinces so far have indicated they’re looking at speeding up second shots, with a few already announcing concrete plans.
“Everything is trending in the right direction,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, at a press conference on Thursday.
While guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says doses can be spaced out by up to 16 weeks, provinces who can administer second shots sooner should — and some already are, he said.
Moving up second doses where possible is a good thing, said Dr. Angie Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security.
“I agree that some protection is better than no protection. So it makes sense to stretch supplies by delaying the second dose if you have a supply shortage, which Canada has,” she told Global News.
But, she added, if there is enough supply, then moving second doses up to a shorter interval is “the wise thing to do.”
Nationwide, nearly 54 per cent of Canadians have received at least a first dose of vaccine, according to the website covid19tracker.ca, though this varies province by province.
Here’s what each province is planning so far for their second doses.
On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province will be moving the interval between first and second doses from up to 16 weeks to eight weeks.
“Now that we have a steady supply coming to B.C., the number of people who now have their first dose is high enough that we’re now able to speed up the delivery of second doses,” she said.
Henry said the rollout of second doses will prioritize by age and the most vulnerable, beginning with those 70 years old and older receiving booking invites beginning Thursday.
The province plans to move up second doses for everyone, Henry said on Tuesday.
“We are moving up the second dose for everybody, but particularly for people who are older, people who have immune-compromising conditions, people who are on our clinically extremely vulnerable list,” she said.
Although Alberta has not yet announced specific plans for moving up second doses in the general population, earlier this month, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer, said that it was likely.
Alberta is still offering first doses to the population, including to kids 12 and up, she said.
“Once we finish offering to all those individuals, we will of course be moving on to second doses so it’s very likely that the interval will be shorter than four months.”
Saskatchewan has the clearest timetable among the provinces for its second dose rollout.
Groups become eligible based on either their age or the date of their first dose, with people who are older or who got their first dose a long time ago at the front of the line. Week by week, new groups become eligible, descending by age and date of initial vaccine.
By June 21, people aged 45 and older, or who received their first dose on or before April 15, will be able to get their second dose. By the end of June, eligibility will become dependent solely on the day people received their vaccine.
Certain vulnerable populations can also get their second dose sooner.
On Wednesday, officials announced that anyone who received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on or before March 29 can book an appointment for their second dose.
Second dose eligibility expands in Manitoba
Premier Brian Pallister on Thursday urged every Manitoban who had one dose to book their second dose as soon as they become eligible, adding he was hoping to book his own second appointment within a few days.
Certain high-risk groups are already eligible to book second doses.
Ontario is planning to start appointments for second doses next week for people 80 and older, York Region’s medical officer of health said Thursday. The provincial government is expected to announce more details on its second dose roll out plan on Friday.
Currently, people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine between March 10 and March 19 are eligible to book their second shot of AstraZeneca at some pharmacies and primary care facilities.
Quebec is moving up the second dose for people over 45 who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the province’s health minister announced Thursday. The dose interval will be shortened to eight weeks from the previous 16 weeks.
Quebecers can receive their second shot of AstraZeneca at provincial vaccine walk-in clinics starting May 29. If they choose to receive a different vaccine for their booster shot, the interval remains 16 weeks.
The province hasn’t announced details yet on shortening the dose interval for people who received other vaccines, though Health Minister Christian Dube said earlier this week that the government is hoping everyone can be fully vaccinated by Aug. 31.
“With the additional vaccine that we have from Pfizer in June and July, we will be able to accelerate those appointments,” Dube said on Tuesday.
Additional details are expected next week.
According to the province’s health minister, New Brunswick is currently three weeks ahead of schedule for administering a first dose to residents.
“We planned on being ready at the end of June and finished with first doses, but we’re going to be finished the week of June 7. And so second doses are going to begin immediately after that for those who are in the timeframe that can have them,” health minister Dorothy Shephard said Wednesday.
N.B. will no longer require self-isolation for travellers within Atlantic Canada except N.S. starting June 7
Detailed plans on delivering second doses are being updated and still have to be approved by cabinet over the next few weeks, she said.
“The last thing we want is vaccines sitting in refrigerators. So the vaccine is going to keep coming in and we’re going to make sure it gets into arms.”
Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that it will also be speeding up second doses, by around two to four weeks. People who are due soonest for their second dose will be able to move up their appointment in early June and notices for second appointments will roll out over the following weeks in the same order as first-dose appointments.
The province expects it can achieve population immunity, or 85 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated, in early September, rather than the end of October as originally expected.
Prince Edward Island
All first doses should be administered by the end of June, and all Islanders should be able to get their second dose by September, said Premier Dennis King on Thursday.
“The second dose appointments have actually already started to be booked for many people in the clinics and they actually have been moved from 16 weeks down to between 12 and 14 weeks after their first doses,” said chief health officer Heather Morrison. Some people are already getting second dose appointments for June, she said.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Currently, Newfoundland and Labrador has no plans to shorten the interval between doses of vaccine, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Community Services. Second doses will be administered no later than four months after the first.
Yukon has scheduled clinics for both first and second doses across the territory, with second dose administration already underway for residents 18 and over.
Second dose appointments are already underway in the Northwest Territories, including at walk-in clinics.
Around 57 per cent of adults in Nunavut have already gotten their second dose of vaccine, and vaccination appointments are ongoing, according to the government website.
— With files from Julia Wong, Kalina Laframboise, Alex Cooke, Jon Azpiri, Abigail Bimman, Kamil Karamali and the Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.