In response to the Pfizer BioNTech delay in delivering vaccines to Ontario, public health officials in this province could extend the interval between the two doses that are given to some less-vulnerable vaccine recipients. Pfizer revealed last week it had to shut down production for one week so it could scale ups European manufacturing capacity.
Both the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that are provided in Ontario are double-dose vaccines, meaning the first dose is administered one day and then the follow-up second dose is delivered 21 to 28 days later.
Despite the shortage, Ontario officials told a technical briefing Monday that the plan is to accelerate the vaccines going out to long-term care homes, to high risk retirement homes and to First Nations elder care homes.
“With uncertainty and reduced allocations we will be reallocating vaccines to 14 public health unit regions that haven’t received any vaccine yet so that they can begin to vaccinate their vulnerable populations, starting this week,” said a Ministry of Health official on Monday.
This has included Public Health Sudbury and Districts which revealed on Monday that Moderna vaccines are to be shipped to Sudbury this week.
The Ministry official said Ontario is working on a new strategic approach. This will include a focus on areas where Ontario can reduce risk of illness and death for the most vulnerable populations.
“We’re accelerating the vaccination of residents in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes,” she added.
Ontario is also planning to expand the time allocation between first and second dosages on the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
“We will be extending the interval between doses in some situations and only as needed to support the vaccinations of the most vulnerable populations. For resident groups, in long-term care, in high-risk retirement homes and elder care homes, we will be maintaining the recommended maximum interval of 21 to 27 days and for all other groups, we will expand that interval to no more than 42 days.”
The idea of expanding the time interval was taken into account during the vaccine trial studies and was proven effective with time intervals from 19 days to 42 days, the briefing was told.
The health ministry official said this measure is supported by the World Health Organization as well as the Centers for Disease Control, based in the United States.
The effort is also being accelerated for remote and isolated First Nations communities.
Despite the one-week delay from Pfizer, the company has stated it will live up to the contractual obligation to provide Canada with a total of four million doses of vaccine by the end of March, the briefing was told.
In response to a media question about the reliability of the Moderna vaccine delivery, the briefing was told that Moderna delivers its vaccines every three weeks, and in both instances, the vaccines from Moderna had arrived on time in Ontario. The next delivery, of about 80,000 doses, is expected on Monday February 1, 2021. There has been no indication that Moderna’s delivery schedule will be changed.