Island pharmacist thinks current AstraZeneca supply should be used ahead of schedule
VICTORIA -- Some folks in Colwood felt lucky Wednesday after getting a surprise second dose of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.
Peoples Pharmacy, located on Sooke Road, received a batch of 200 doses of the vaccine last week, and only administered a portion of it before getting notice that it should hold off booking more appointments for first doses.
Pharmacist Yoshi Ito says they were told last week by health officials they could honour existing appointments, but not make additional appointments for first doses.
However, on Monday, they were also told they should not waste any of the vaccine, and once they had wrapped up their first dose appointments, they should administer any doses from already opened vials as second doses to those who had received a first shot of AstraZeneca four weeks ago or earlier.
Word of mouth spread quickly, and Ito says he gave out all their remaining doses from opened vials on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"So we've done 15 or 20 and those are pretty much all we have left," he said Wednesday afternoon.
By the end of the day Wednesday, his pharmacy had finished off its extra doses from opened vials.
But Ito has 100 more doses unopened in the pharmacy’s fridge that expire at the end of next month and he thinks he should be allowed to open more vials and give them out now, too. He’s holding off doing so, pending approval from the province and health officials, but thinks the idea of giving them out now, rather than waiting for weeks, makes sense.
"In my opinion the most effective use of these vaccines is to let us give the second doses to whoever we can," said Ito. "We have the manpower to do so."
On Monday, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, noted that recent research has shown the optimum time period between first and second doses of AstraZeneca and the other shots may be 12 weeks, not four weeks.
Dr. Isaac Bogococh is an infectious disease physician with the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He too notes that research suggests a longer time period between shots — of approximately three months — may provide better protection, but also notes a shorter period between doses also provides decent protection.
"If people are getting that second shot before that three months, by no means is that catastrophic at all, you still have that very good protection against the virus," he said.
Bogoch says the advice of waiting for three months likely comes with some caveats, and the most important thing is getting two shots.
"Whether it’s a month apart or three months apart, you just got to get your two shots," said Bogoch.
By Thursday morning, Ito said the phone at his pharmacy was ringing every two minutes with people hoping to get a second dose.
He is not opening any new vials and not giving out more second doses for now, but does hope the government and Henry have a change of heart and give him the green light to administer the remaining AstraZeneca sooner, rather than later.