Not sure which vaccine to get? You may not have a choice
The green light by experts for AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is an important step towards it receiving an emergency use authorisation by the World Health Organization. (AFP)
TORONTO -- With a third and fourth COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in Canada, many are wondering whether they can pick and choose which jab they receive.
But the choice may not be up to the patient, and experts note you should take whichever vaccine you’re offered first.
“The important thing is getting vaccines into people’s arms,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told CTV News Channel on Friday.
“One thing we do know, even with AstraZeneca, even with the variant, it is still extremely effective at reducing hospitalizations and almost completely eliminating death,” he added.
Reducing these numbers will help bring the pandemic to an end, he said.
“Whatever vaccine you get, I would get it,” said Dr. Chakrabarti. “The point is if you get a vaccine, you will most likely not have severe disease from COVID-19 and that is the most important metric.”
The three vaccines approved for emergency use in Canada include the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, Moderna’s vaccine and most recently, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and a related shot by the Serum Institute of India.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is a two dose mRNA vaccine to be administered up to three weeks apart. The vaccine is authorized to be kept at ultra-cold levels, below -70 C, requiring special freezers. New research indicates the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine has an efficacy of 92.6 per cent.
The Moderna vaccine was the second approved in Canada. Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, it is administered in two doses up to four weeks apart. It is also an mRNA vaccine, and needs to be stored at -20 C. The first dose of the Moderna vaccine shows a high efficacy of 92.1 per cent.
The AstraZeneca vaccines require two doses that can be administered between four and 12 weeks apart. It is expected to be cheaper and easier to store because it can be kept at regular refrigerator temeratures between 2 C and 8 C. There have been concerns over the efficacy of these vaccines as new variants have shown to render it less effective. Health Canada puts its efficacy at 62.1 per cent.
Whether or not people will be able to pick and choose which vaccine they get will be up to the province or territory they live in.
“If some provinces decide to give people a menu, and others don’t, then that’ll be their decision,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CTV’s Question Period.
“What we're doing is getting as quickly as we can, as many vaccines as we can to the provinces and territories, and they'll decide how best to deploy them.”