No need for buyer's remorse on AstraZeneca shots, NACI co-chair says

Quach-Thanh said she was not trying to suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine, which over one million Canadians have already received, was a second-best choice

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OTTAWA – The co-chair of Canada’s vaccine advisory committee says anyone who took the AstraZeneca vaccine did the right thing and shouldn’t feel they got a second-best vaccine.

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, the co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Immunization, put out a statement late Wednesday night, clarifying comments she made earlier this week.

When NACI released its recommendation on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the advisory committee said Canadians who can wait for an mRNA vaccine, like Pfizer or Moderna, should do so, rather than taking a viral-vector type vaccine like Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca.

Quach-Thanh said she was not trying to suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine, which over one million Canadians have already received, was a second-best choice.

“People who did get their AstraZeneca vaccine, mainly when COVID-19 was being transmitted in their community, actually did the right thing. They protected themselves and their families against COVID-19 complications,” she said in a statement emailed to reporters.


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NACI’s preference for the mRNA vaccines was criticized by health professionals for sowing confusion and anxiety. Some said it would create a two-tier vaccine policy.

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Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of the National COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, told the CBC, “It’s an unsettling message because it suggests you got the second best vaccine. Let’s not get into Gucci versus Rolex versus no-name branding vaccines based on questionable effectiveness comparisons.”

NACI, a decades-old advisory body for vaccines, weighs in after Health Canada approval and gives provinces and territories guidance on how vaccines should best be used. Health Canada has already declared all vaccines in Canada to be safe and effective and encouraged people to get the first shot they are offered.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines use the same viral vector technology and both vaccines have been linked to extremely rare, but serious blood clots. NACI recommended their use for people over the age of 30, but also suggested people who can wait for an mRNA vaccine, should do so.

Quach-Thanh said NACI is only looking to the future with its recommendation and said with many mRNA vaccines coming to Canada in the coming weeks it may make sense for some people to wait.


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“If your risk of COVID is moderate to high, get the first vaccine available now. If not, then one needs to balance out the risk,” she said.

While the mRNA vaccines have been reported as better protecting against COVID-19, the vaccines were tested at different times and in different countries, with different variants of the virus circulating, making an apples to apples comparison difficult.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the issue on Tuesday and didn’t directly contradict NACI, but stuck with his government’s long-standing advice that Canadians should get vaccinated as soon as they are able.

“The longer we wait, the longer it takes, the slower before we get back to normal, the slower before we get to drive down case numbers across the country.”

Canada has received approximately 2.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and many of those doses have been handed out. The government also has 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in storage after receiving them last week. It is holding off on distribution due to quality control concerns at the American plant where a key component was manufactured.

Canada is set to receive two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine every week in May and 2.4 million every week in June. Moderna the other mRNA vaccine delivered a million doses this week and has committed to doing the same the week of May 17.

Currently, there are no confirmed deliveries for either AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, but the government has said it expects more doses of both companies’ vaccines in June.

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