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

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Richard Green and Alex Campbell stand in solemn reflection of the survivors and victims of the residential school system on May 30, in Prince Rupert National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 is a time to reflect on the sacrifices and honour the contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Metis of Canada. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Reflecting on National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 is to celebrate the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis to Canada’s culture

Mark Perry in concert at the old Driftwood School (Marty Clemens photo)
Mark Perry releases new single ahead of Northwest album.

“Golden Spruce” tells the story of a forester who cut down an old-growth Sitka Spruce on Haida Gwaii

Five rehabilitated grizzly bears were released this month into the Bella Coola area. The Northern Lights Wildlife Society will also be delivering 36 black bears to areas across the province where they were previously found. “They’re ready to go and they’re already trying to get out,” says Angelika Langen. “We feel good when we can make that possible and they don’t have to stay behind fences for the rest of their lives.” (Northern Lights Wildlife Society Facebook photo)
Suspected methamphetamine and scale seized by police. (Terrace RCMP photo)
Terrace RCMP seize guns, ammo, suspected narcotics

Man released after court appearance

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read