Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Amid a flurry of fear and frustration over new advice from Canada’s national vaccine advisers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians Tuesday if they want this pandemic to end, they still need to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

“The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you,” he said in question period. “It is how we get through this.”

That is the same advice federal and provincial health officials have been giving Canadians since the first vaccines were approved in December. But it is in direct contrast to advice given Monday by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

NACI said the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are “preferred” because they don’t carry the remote risk of a new blood-clotting syndrome.

The 16-member panel of doctors and other vaccine experts said that Canadians who aren’t at high risk of COVID-19 may choose to turn down the offer of Oxford-AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson and wait until they can get an mRNA vaccine.

They came to that conclusion after looking at a risk-benefit analysis comparing the likelihood of vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia or VITT, which is currently believed to be between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000, and the risk of COVID-19 among different age groups and different levels of the virus.

Seven cases of VITT have been confirmed in Canada out of 1.7 million people who received AstraZeneca. One of the cases was fatal.

NACI said Canadians under 30 shouldn’t be offered AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson at all, because their potential risk of contracting VITT outweighs their risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

NACI’s advice did not land well among some politicians or medical professionals this week.

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy lumped NACI in with “anti-maskers” who are undermining the pandemic response.

“If a vaccine is approved by Public Health Canada … take that shot,” he said. “Ignore NACI, ignore anti-maskers, ignore the people undermining faith in science and do your part for New Brunswick.”

The Canadian Pharmacists Association, whose members are handling the injections of AstraZeneca in much of Canada, said NACI’s words were “disappointing” and could fuel vaccine hesitancy.

“I’m worried,” said Phil Emberley, the association’s acting director of professional affairs. “We need to get a lot of Canadians immunized in order to get over this pandemic.”

Emergency physician Dr. Brian Goldman said on Twitter Canadians should not be “choosy” about which vaccine they get.

“It pains me to say this but it’s past time to take NACI’s recommendations with a grain of salt,” he said.

Nova Scotia chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang, however, sided with NACI.

“All our vaccines are good vaccines but the reality is the mRNA vaccines are better vaccines,” he said.

Neither Trudeau nor Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam would directly acknowledge the contradiction in advice, prompting Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole to accuse Trudeau of just adding to the confusion.

“For months Canadians have been told to get the first vaccine available to them,” O’Toole said. “Today, the prime minister refused to confirm that advice on 10 different occasions.”

Trudeau, who received AstraZeneca himself April 23, said he doesn’t regret it. Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who also received it last month, said the same thing.

Tam said she understands that people may be frustrated or angry about changing advice but she said recommendations evolve as science changes. She said there are different risk-benefit conclusions based on individual and community situations.

“But again, I’ll reiterate from our chief medical officers that the AstraZeneca vaccine deployed in the middle of a third wave has saved lives and prevented serious illnesses,” she said.

Some of the debate may not matter much because the shipments of mRNA vaccines vastly outweigh expected shipments of AstraZeneca or J&J.

Pfizer is sending 20 million doses by the end of June, including two million this week. Moderna is to ship another 8.5 million to 10.5 million, including a shipment of one million doses that will arrive Wednesday, a week ahead of schedule.

Comparatively, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday there are only deliveries of about 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca expected, though negotiations to get additional doses from a U.S. supply of that vaccine are ongoing.

There are no shipments of J&J even tentatively scheduled.

The first 300,000 doses of J&J arrived last week but are on hold because they were partly made at a Maryland facility with numerous safety violations. Health Canada is trying to verify the doses meet required standards.

By the end of September, Canada expects to get 44 million Moderna, 48 million Pfizer, approximately 24 million AstraZeneca and 10 million J&J.

Emberley said he’s also worried NACI’s advice will make Canadians who already received AstraZeneca afraid to get their second dose.

There are studies underway about mixing two different vaccines, with the first results expected later this month. Tam said Tuesday NACI will give advice on that before the second doses of AstraZeneca are due for the first people who got it.

On the current four-month schedule in Canada, that would be in July.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Yoga with Goats instructor Samantha Richardson gets some attention from one of the goats while stretching on her mat June 15 at O’Keefe Ranch. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Yoga gone to the goats at North Okanagan ranch

Get your downward dog on with some four-legged friends at O’Keefe

The Rockets salute the crowd on the completion of the 2019-20 season. The team is hoping for billet families to get the 2021-22 season off the ground. (Claire Palmer photo)
Golden Rockets looking for billet families

The Rockets are looking for billet families for the 2021-22 KIJHL season

With high temperatures forecasted for the week and into the next, Interior Health is offering some tips on how to keep yourself safe from heat-related illness. (Pixabay)
Interior Health offers safety tips as temperatures soar

‘Too much heat can be harmful to your health’

Kurt Swanson’s dog Kona takes a break from the heat on the Summer Solstice near Cranbrook, B.C. (Kurt Swanson photo)
Very warm temperatures forecast across the Kootenays this weekend

Nelson, Castlegar forecast to hit 39, Cranbrook 37

Traffic will be diverted through Radium along highways 93 and 95 as a part of the closures. (Claire Palmer photo)
Extended closures to Trans-Canada Highway announced east of Golden this fall

It’s the second round of extended closures as a part of Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project

Teenagers make their way to Truswell Road after a party is broken up by police at the end of Mission Creek (Lorraine Besner/Contributed).
Kelowna residents concerned about ongoing alleged underage beach parties

Public urination, property damage, drinking and drug usage have become weekly concerns

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves U.S. town’s only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s so easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton, resident of Point Roberts, Wash.

Mayla Janzen and Ashley Hoppichler, with her daughters Lily and Sophia, are bringing a Friday evening market to Polson Park, starting July 2. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Entrepreneurs craft up Vernon night market

Friday evening Polson Park event to take place throughout the summer

Wade Cudmore, seen here with his mother Kathy Richardson, had his first court appearance in relation to first degree murder charges in the deaths of Erick and Carlo Fryer Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kathy Richardson/Facebook)
Man charged in Naramata double homicide appears in Penticton court

Wade Cudmore appeared for the first time in relation to first degree murder charges

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Most Read