WELLINGTON COUNTY – With administration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine halted, pharmacies in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) region expect to receive shipments of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the coming weeks.
On May 11, the Province of Ontario announced it will no longer offer first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to an increase in reports of rare blood clots.
“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition … linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was being offered to individuals aged 40 and up at numerous pharmacies across the province. According to WDGPH, more than 20,000 people in the region have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a May 12 statement, WDGPH associate medical officer of health Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum assured residents they made the right decision to get the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Getting AstraZeneca means you were vaccinated earlier than you would have been had you waited for another vaccine,” Tenenbaum wrote.
“That protected you and the people around you from COVID-19 and helped move our community toward the end of this pandemic.”
He added, “Putting this vaccine on hold is the right choice until we know more. “We want our health system to be guided by science and use an abundance of caution when it comes to protecting us.”
Prior to the pause, pharmacies in the WDGPH region were administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, but many had already halted their vaccine rollout due to a supply shortage.
“Most pharmacies had actually already used up all of the inventory of AstraZeneca vaccine allocated to them before this announcement was made,” said Andrew Tolmie, pharmacist and owner of Pharmasave Trailside Pharmacy in Aboyne and Pharmasave Elora Apothecary.
He noted his pharmacies expect to receive Modern and Pfizer in the upcoming weeks.
“We did a very good job of setting up clinic days, opening up on weekends and immunizing people as quickly as possible,” he added.
“We did not have to cancel any appointments for people who thought that they might be getting the (AstraZeneca) vaccine so we were in a good position that way.”
Tolmie noted that for those who have received their first dose of the vaccine, their second dose is still booked, although what vaccine they will receive is still to be determined.
“We expect that both of our pharmacies will be administering mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) in the coming weeks” Tolmie added. “However, the exact date and quantity of vaccine we will be receiving has not yet been confirmed.”
John Walsh, pharmacist and owner of the Pharmasave Drayton Pharmacy, said he too expects to receive the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the coming weeks.
Walsh said that the outcome for those who already received their first shot with AstraZeneca is to be determined. However, he did note that if they receive a second dose of AstraZeneca, “there is even lower clot risk with the second dose.”
Walsh added pharmacies are also waiting on guidance for mixing vaccines as an option.
Julie Ray, local vaccine lead physician at Geddes Medical Group, said the halt in the AstraZeneca vaccine won’t affect the Upper Grand Family Health Team’s rollout.
Before the announcement was made, the majority of physicians in the Upper Grand Family Health Team were administering both Modern and AstraZeneca.
Ray noted the team’s vaccine rollout has been intermittent, based on supply available to them.
Danny Williamson, communications specialist at WDGPH, stated in an email the pause in the AstraZeneca vaccines will not impact WDGPH’s vaccine allocation.