A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. shortens second COVID-19 vaccine wait from 16 weeks to eight

Pfizer second dose after Moderna safe, effective, Dr. Henry says

B.C. public health officials have enough COVID-19 vaccine to offer second doses eight weeks after the first, starting with the oldest people still waiting for a second coronavirus vaccine.

People aged 70 and older and those who are clinically vulnerable will start receiving invitations for second-dose appointments starting Thursday (May 27), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. Earlier when the pandemic was surging in March and April, the interval was extended to up to 16 weeks to get first-dose protection to as many people as possible.

Once the estimated 700,000 people who are 70 and older or clinically vulnerable have received second doses, the program will continue down by age as with first doses. Remote and Indigenous communities that received first doses for all age groups at once will have the same clinics for second doses.

Henry said recent interruptions in supply of Moderna vaccine are expected to level out by the end of June, but some people who received Moderna for a first dose may be offered the Pfizer vaccine for their second dose. She said research is showing that interchanging the two messenger RNA vaccines is safe and effective.

“I would encourage people to take the Pfizer if it is offered,” Henry said.

For those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca, a more traditional viral vector vaccine, Henry said results of studies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere on mixing with messenger RNA vaccines are still being conducted. But B.C. has sufficient AstraZeneca supplies on hand to proceed with second doses, as soon as deliveries are arranged with the pharmacies and workplaces where first doses were delivered, she said.

Henry reported 378 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the 24 hours up to May 27, an increase after two days of fewer than 300 new infections. There are 286 people in hospital, 88 of them in intensive care, and seven more deaths attributed to COVID-19. The overall infection rate is trending down rapidly after reaching a peak of more than 1,200 a day in early April.

Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced the resumption of scheduled surgeries at Lower Mainland hospitals where they were suspended to reassign beds and staff to deal with the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in March and April. Scheduled surgeries resumed in one of the three operating rooms at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and one of four suspended operating rooms at Surrey Memorial Hospital, with normal operations resuming by June 7 at those hospitals as well as Royal Columbian and Burnaby Hospitals.

RELATED: Whistler-Blackcomb to reopen Monday for summer

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