Manitoba to start delaying second dose of COVID-19 vaccine
WINNIPEG -- Changes are coming to Manitoba's vaccine rollout.
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said Manitoba will be delaying the administration of the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Reimer said this will apply for all vaccines and added studies have shown that it is okay to delay the second dose.
"The reason for this decision at this time is based on what we're seeing in real-world conditions, about the effectiveness of the vaccines that are currently authorized for use in Canada and around the world," said Reimer.
"Clinical and real world studies have shown all of these vaccines to be effective in preventing COVID-19, and the people who have been immunized are much less likely to not only become infected, but also have severe symptoms, if they do become infected."
Reimer added this will change the province's vaccine plan and said the province will be following the advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. She said that could be a delay of up to four months.
"The whole goal of this is to speed up the ability to reach all Manitobans with the first dose. So we do anticipate that all Manitobans will be reached much quicker than the original plan of ensuring that the second dose occurred at the three or four-week window."
Officials said they aren't sure yet how much quicker everyone could receive their first dose but with this adjustment in the rollout, the expectation is the timeline will speed up.
All current second dose appointments will be honoured.
Reimer said the province has reviewed data from parts of Canada including the United Kingdom and Israel and feel confident in making this decision.
"The first dose is protective in the real world 70 to 80-plus per cent which is excellent," she said.
She said some of the data goes as far as two months. She noted that even though the province is making this decision, officials will continue to watch what is happening with the vaccine.
"If there are any signs after that two-month point that immunity starts to decrease, we can pivot again. That's the nature of science. We are always putting out our best plan, but then testing it and watching and we need to be ready to adapt to new information as it comes in."
Reimer was asked what the biggest risk with the newest approach in Manitoba.
She said it would be the communication aspect with Manitobans.
"Vaccine science is confusing, it's complicated. There are so many numbers getting reported out. I don't want our change to be seen as any sort of lack of confidence that we might have in these vaccines. So I think the biggest worry that I have is that Manitobans could interpret this as something concerning or they could interpret the second dose as not essential."
She said receiving the second dose is extremely important to ensuring full immunity from COVID-19 and she would hate to see the province have to go through what it did in the last year because people didn't become fully vaccinated.