With nearly half the population receiving their first doses, when will restrictions ease?
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
The government is experimenting with mixing doses and delaying of second doses, and this move has sparked the criticism that Canada is conducting a ‘population level experiment.’
As of May 19, over 19,000,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Canada. This means nearly 47 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose. In BC, over 2,500,000 vaccine doses have been administered with over 47 percent receiving their first dose as well. While Canada’s vaccine rollout may have started with some hiccups, the country now follows close behind the US’ vaccine program. With nearly half the population receiving their first doses, many are wondering when we can start seeing the benefits of an inoculated society.
Canada is set to receive even more vaccine doses with a shipment of over 4.5 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna in the coming week (3.4 million and 1.1 million, respectively). The plan for controversial vaccines such as AstraZeneca (which has had 2.16 million first doses administered to Canadians) and Johnson & Johnson (which is being investigated for possible contamination at production facility) has yet to be determined. What’s more is that the government is experimenting with mixing doses and delaying of second doses, and this move has sparked the criticism that Canada is conducting a “population level experiment.” Canadians now have a choice in what vaccine they want for their second dose if they received AstraZeneca as their first and are awaiting results of a UK study mixing Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Over 655,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been delivered as part of a global vaccine sharing program COVAX but have been put on hold as some provinces have halted their deliveries amidst the reported rare cases of blood clots caused by vaccinations and supply issues. As of May 13, there have been two reported cases of blood clots following vaccinations in BC and 28 cases in Canada.
While called extremely rare, cases of blood clots following vaccinations have become more reported. How rare are blood clots after receiving a vaccine dose? Bonnie Henry previously stated that the cases for Vaccine Induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) occur in about 1 in 100,000 doses, but Dr. Brian Conway of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre says that it may occur more frequently. “When it was first reported it was about one in a million,” Conway said, but now says it may be “probably closer to one in 55,000,” he said in a CTV News article on May 14. He adds that the chances of a patient having this condition declines after receiving the first dose. “If you did well with the first shot, the risk of blood clot or any serious side effect with a second shot is exceedingly low, one in a million or even less.”
According to the CDC, people who have received the vaccine can still transmit or become infected with the virus, though it is very rare and considered “vaccine breakthrough cases.” They also add on their website that there is still much to learn in regard to how long the first vaccine dose protects people and how well it protects people from spreading the virus while asymptomatic. (Though they report early data shows it is very effective, the website states that they are still learning as people are receiving vaccinations.)
When will we see relief from these restrictions? Sally Otto, a biologist who has assisted the province during the pandemic, says in a Global News article that BC would need 750,000 more people (about 60 percent of the population overall) immunized before starting the gradual reopening plan—a target that she says could be hit within the next month.