By Matthew McCully
The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) announced Thursday that AstraZeneca will no longer be offered to Quebecers as a first dose.
Any appointments scheduled for a first dose will be cancelled. Pharmacies will contact those affected to schedule a new appointment.
The decision is based on the recommendations of the Comité d’immunisation du Québec (CIQ), in an update of its opinion on the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine against COVID-19.
An additional 148,000 doses of AstraZeneca are scheduled to be delivered over the next week. Those doses will be reserved to offer as a second dose to people who received AstraZeneca as a first dose. According to the MSSS, the same vaccine is still recommended for the second dose for people aged 45 and over who already received it.
People can, however, after informed consent, request a dose of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) as a second dose, depending on what is available in Québec. The MSSS pointed out that according to recently published data, people who receive two different vaccines are likely to experience more significant side effects in the days following the second dose, such as fever, headaches and fatigue. Studies are continuing on a mixed vaccine scenario in terms of the immune response.
Blood clots are a possible complication of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the risk is rare, approximately 1 in 100,000 vaccines administered with the first dose, the MSSS said in a press release. With the second dose, the MSSS said the rate is even lower, at 1 in 1,000,000.
According to the health authority, the efficacy of one dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is high and long-lasting, and its efficacy appears optimal when the interval between the two doses is 12 weeks or more. This vaccine is therefore safe, effective and it is not recommended that the second dose be given earlier.
Arrangements for those wishing to opt out of AstraZeneca and choose an mRNA vaccine as a second dose will be communicated at a later date. It is not necessary to take steps to change an appointment at this time.
The clinics that will administer the second dose of AstraZeneca will be clearly identified. The public will be informed before being vaccinated and will be able to make an informed decision.
Quebec reported 781 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. There are currently 7,795 active cases in the province. Five new deaths were reported, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 11,017.
Hospitalizations increased by 10 for a total of 520, and 121 patients are in intensive care, down five from the day before.
In the Estrie, 51 new cases were reported, bringing the number of active cases in the region to 531. The bulk of the new cases were reported in Sherbrooke (16), Granit (12) and Memphremagog (8), with five or less cases in each of the other Estrie health sectors.
There were two new deaths reported in the community, bringing the total deaths in the region to 340.
So far 225, 356 people in the Estrie have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, representing 44.6 per cent of the target population.
As of May 14, anyone aged 18 years or older is eligible to make a vaccination appointment in Quebec.