Pharmasave waiting on dose guidelines

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

After the Ontario province halted the first dose distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, pharmacies across Ontario are waiting to receive vials to finish the second round of vaccinations.

Ashley LaFreniere, assistant at Pharmasave in Fort Frances, said after they give out the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, they are hoping to get a different approved one because they are still part of the pharmacy administration program.

Ontario is not the only province to halt the AstraZeneca distribution. Within a week’s timeline, Alberta, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan placed similar restrictions around offering the first dose of AstraZeneca.

David Williams, Ontario chief medical officer of health, said this decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) that was associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

According to statistics, as of May 8, 651,012 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were administered with a rate of VITT of 0.9 per 100,000 doses administered.

However, there have been increased reports of VITT, with a rate of 1.7 per 100,000 doses administered. This led experts at Public Health Ontario, the Science Advisory Table and federal, provincial and territorial partners to consider using the AstraZeneca only as a second dose moving forward.

On Monday, Williams said in a press conference that it is very rare for someone who did not have an adverse reaction to the first dose to have one after their second.

Thus far, Pharmasave has administered 436 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Currently, there are 357 people on the waiting list to be vaccinated.

Since the province stopped the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, LaFreniere said nobody from those who had their first dose called with concerns or questions.

However, Williams said some people may prefer to have the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine as their second dose.

“Right now, we don’t know the actual vaccine effectiveness level or the immunological level of the two mixed,” Willams said. “We’re hoping to have an answer to that soon with some studies early in June.”

Pharmasave in Fort Frances saw a total of 1,330 names on the waiting list, including those who called and cancelled after they booked their jab with the Northwestern Health Unit.

“Most of the people that had gotten their vaccination were aware of the risks,” LaFreniere said. “They did their research, and we had questions leading up to the vaccine. But afterwards we’ve had quite a few people calling to see when they’re getting their second shot, but not with any questions regarding if they’re at risk at the moment.”

LaFreniere said they will continue updating their Facebook page with the new information on when second doses will be received and whether a different kind of vaccine will be given.