A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a pharmacy prototype clinic in Halifax on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

A pharmacist prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a pharmacy prototype clinic in Halifax on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Avoid mixed messaging with any mix-and-match vaccine plan: CEO

Poor communication can confuse and lead to vaccine hesitance

Public health doctors and immunologists in Canada are calling for a wait-and-see approach as the idea of mixing doses of different COVID-19 vaccines is being considered to quickly inoculate more people around the world.

The changes will be guided by the results of a major study expected to be released this summer in the United Kingdom.

Kelly McNagny, an immunologist at the University of British Columbia, said mixing and matching vaccines is a viable way to proceed because mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna work essentially the same way as viral-vector vaccines manufactured by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in creating a protein that triggers an immune response against the virus that causes COVID-19.

“I can’t see a reason why mixing and matching would not work just fine, but the studies are not in yet,” said McNagny, a professor in the school of biomedical engineering and the department of medical genetics.

“It is an evolving situation. There is great data to show that if you get the normally scheduled routine vaccination, you get protected really well. The problem is there’s a shortage of vaccines.”

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, told a news conference this week that the mix-and-match data coming out of the U.K. is being followed “very closely” and that using different vaccines for the first and second doses may provide even greater protection.

Tam’s comment came after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferred over AstraZeneca and J&J due to a very low risk of blood clots, fuelling concern and confusion because the panel’s recommendation contradicts Health Canada’s position.

Further clarification is expected on whether people who received AstraZeneca for their first dose should also get the same vaccine for their second shot, Tam said.

“I think we’re all interested in the approach of actually mixing different types of vaccines, like an mRNA following a viral-vector vaccine, for example,” she said.

The U.K. mix-and-match study began in February with about 800 volunteers over the age of 50 who received either the AstraZeneca vaccine and then the Pfizer vaccine or vice versa several weeks later, or two doses of the same vaccine each time.

Participants, who did not know which vaccines they got, provided blood samples to measure the level of antibodies and T cells that vaccines produce to attack the virus.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the study to determine the efficacy of administering different vaccines is among others being followed in Canada.

However, she and her colleagues across the country are advising everyone to get the first vaccine that’s available to reduce transmission of COVID-19, Henry said, adding: “That includes the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Gurpreet Malhotra, CEO of Indus Community Services based in Mississauga, Ont., said the agency serving the South Asian community in the Peel region has worked hard to build vaccine confidence and any kind of mixed messaging about a possible mix-and-match plan could be rejected because people may wait for a specific vaccine in keeping with the national panel’s recommendation.

Poor communication about COVID-19 vaccines has caused “a significant portion of the population to freak,” especially those who are already hesitant about getting vaccinated in any community across the country, he said.

“Some of those are high-risk groups. Those people need their confidence built and every time there’s a confusing message, that creates another opportunity to say, ‘Let’s wait and see,’” he said.

Several social service groups in the Peel area, home to a large number of essential-service jobs at warehouses and food processing plants, have been educating people in multiple languages to create a strong vaccination program for those more vulnerable to infection, Malhotra said.

“The community is now actively mobilizing at its temples and pop-ups and mosques and other community settings. There’s not a situation where there’s vaccine waiting to go into someone’s arm.”

He urged federal and provincial officials to provide streamlined information and said the national immunization panel’s position on the AstraZeneca vaccine only served to create mistrust among those who are now confused about whether they should wait for a different vaccine for their second dose.

“Mixed messaging is not helpful. And having contradictory messaging or messaging that gets walked back after consideration doesn’t help.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

There were 255 babies born in Victoria in May 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pandemic baby boom makes for a busier Vancouver Island Father’s Day

Victoria’s 255 babies born in May up almost 10 per cent over last year

Brian Korzenowski rides with Athena, left, and Venus who are safely strapped in and goggled up with the wind in their fur. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to Sooke Road commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

A lift on marine border restrictions by next summer would bring an economic gain to Greater Victoria through the cruise industry. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich calls for opening of marine borders by summer 2022

Council to ask feds to end restrictions in time to allow planning for next cruise ship season

Camper the dog was found Wednesday night by someone walking their own dog along Hollywood Crescent. She had gone missing after a violent attack on June 11. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Camper the dog found safe after fleeing violent van attack in Victoria

Camper was found on Hollywood Crescent Wednesday night

In January 2019, Grade 5 students from Glenlyon Norfolk School, accompanied by Grade 11 student Anastasia Castro, gave a presentation to Oak Bay council seeking a ban on plastic bags in the district. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay set to survey businesses on single-use plastic products

Survey gathers information ahead of expected legislation on provincial, federal level

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

Most Read