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HomeBusinessExclusive: Second doses in the summer means B.C. mass-vaccination to stretch beyond September

Exclusive: Second doses in the summer means B.C. mass-vaccination to stretch beyond September


Bob Mackin

The health board that oversees the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said its top medical executive was not available for an interview March 1, after it prematurely claimed last week that she misspoke about a major delay in the vaccine rollout.

PHSA executive vice-president Maureen O’Donnell (LinkedIn)

As exclusively reported, Provincial Health Services Authority executive vice-president Dr. Maureen O’Donnell read from a script at the Feb. 18 board meeting that the province’s program to end the pandemic would take several months longer than the advertised Sept. 30 deadline.

“We’re continuing to roll out B.C.’s immunization planning and program, and the majority of the adult population is expected to be vaccinated by the end of the fall,” said O’Donnell. asked O’Donnell for further comment, but she did not attempt to clarify or correct what she told the webcast board meeting. Instead, the pediatrician, epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of B.C. referred a reporter to the PHSA communications department. Spokesman Ben Hadaway claimed on Feb. 24 that O’Donnell’s comment should have been “end of September.”

CLICK AND LISTEN: excerpt of Provincial Health Services Authority official Dr. Maureen O’Donnell from the Feb. 18 board meeting

But, on March 1, the province’s top doctor did not deny that the vaccine program would stretch well into the fall. Dr. Bonnie Henry announced second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be delayed four months so that a majority of B.C. adults would be half-vaccinated by the end of July.

“Does that mean everyone in B.C. will be fully immunized with a second dose now by November?” asked a reporter.

Henry said the shipments of doses from the two main manufacturers would continue to rise into the third quarter so that “second dose clinics” could begin in July.

Dr. Bonnie Henry on March 25 (BC Gov)

“You’re absolutely right,” Henry said. “We will be focusing on second doses starting in the summer.”

Henry said the efficacy of a single dose is higher than expected. But Pfizer said it disagreed with B.C.’s about-face.   

“Pfizer and BioNTech’s Phase 3 study for the COVID-19 vaccine was designed to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and efficacy following a 2-dose schedule, separated by 21 days,” said spokeswoman Christina Antoniou. “The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design.”

On March 1, B.C. reported jabbing 275,681 people, including 83,777 who received a second dose.

Meanwhile, Washington state reported more than 1.67 million doses given.

Nearly 8% of Washingtonians are fully vaccinated, compared to fewer than 2% in B.C. Herd immunity will require between 70% and 90% of the public to be immunized.

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