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

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

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

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

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read