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

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

A 30x40 ft boat/car shop in the Little River area near Wilkinson Road was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on scene. Photo by Comox Fire Rescue
Comox firefighters battle ‘showy’ shop fire Saturday night

Smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Port Hardy cancels Canada Day celebrations in wake of Kamloops mass grave site revelation

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Most Read