Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

NACI advice on ‘preferred vaccines’ for COVID-19 sparks confusion, anger

Panel said that people who can wait for an mRNA vaccine should do so

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered.

NACI said Monday that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are “preferred” and that Canadians should weigh the risks of waiting for one of them before deciding whether to take a more immediate jab of either of the other two approved for use in Canada.

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines have been linked to a new and extremely rare blood-clotting syndrome.

Because of that, Dr. Shelly Deeks, vice-chair of the committee, said someone working from home in a province where there is not much disease might want to wait for a shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

But she said it would be a very different risk-benefit analysis for someone working in a manufacturing plant without personal protective equipment in a province where COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire.

NACI’s advice appears to contradict Health Canada’s long-standing recommendation that the best vaccine is the first one available.

Some doctors took to social media to denounce NACI’s latest advice, warning that the committee is sowing confusion and exacerbating vaccine hesitancy.

“It pains me to say this but it’s past time to take NACI’s recommendations with a grain of salt,” emergency physician Dr. Brian Goldman said on Twitter.

“For the good of your health, DO NOT be choosy when it comes to #covidvaccines. Take the first one you’re offered.”

People who got innoculated with AstraZeneca also took to social media to express anger that they’d been hoodwinked into getting a second-rate vaccine while others questioned whether they should cancel planned first jabs of that vaccine or refuse a second dose of it.

One Twitter user noted acidly that NACI’s advice boils down to “people who are most at risk should settle for a vaccine with the most risk because they are most at risk.”

READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA

NACI chair, Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, only made matters worse in trying to explain the committee’s advice during an interview Monday on CTV’s Power Play.

“If for instance my sister got the AstraZeneca vaccine and died of a thrombosis when I know it could have been prevented and that she is not in a high risk area, I’m not sure I could live with it,” she said.

The risk of the new blood-clotting syndrome, known as vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, is estimated to be anywhere from one case in 100,000 doses given, to one in 250,000. But the syndrome is so new, there is still little known about what the real risk is, why it is happening and who might be most likely to develop clots.

Seven cases have been reported to date in Canada, all in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some 1.7 million doses of which had been given out as of April 24.

As of April 23, 17 cases of VITT had been confirmed out of more than eight-million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the United States.

Health Canada has approved J&J for use in Canada but no Canadian has yet received it as the first batch delivered last week is still being investigated following reports of safety and quality control violations at the American facility involved in its production.

NACI suggests that provinces and territories might want to prioritize J&J, the only single-shot vaccine approved in Canada so far, for people who have difficulty scheduling a second dose. It recommends that J&J, like AstraZeneca, be given only to people over the age of 30.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner raised the confusion NACI’s latest advice has created in the House of Commons on Monday.

“This is a lot different than what we have been hearing. Does Health Canada advise taking the first vaccine offered or to wait, if one can, for an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine?” she asked.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu responded that Health Canada is responsible for approving vaccines for use while NACI provides independent advice on how best to administer them. She advised Canadians wondering which vaccine is right for them to ask their health-care provider.

Both AstraZeneca and J&J are viral-vector vaccines, a technology that takes a common cold virus, manipulates it so it can’t replicate and make someone sick, and then attaches the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine helps the body mount an immune response that will recognize and fight off a real SARS-CoV-2 virus if it is ever exposed to one.

Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology, attaching the spike protein to a molecule that delivers messages to the body to carry out certain functions. In this case the message is to mount an immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

So far in Canada, 12.8 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. About two-thirds of them received Pfizer, one-fifth received Moderna and the rest AstraZeneca.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Memorials have been set up to honour those who died during the Second World War. (Pixabay.com)
COLUMN: It’s time to stop making comparisons to Hitler

The deadliest, most destructive war in human history should not become a metaphor

Oliver’s Fairview Bridge needs work to remove the lead-based paint, but it may cost the town more than they’re currently willing to pay. (Google Maps)
Oliver bridge work may not happen until 2022

Bids for the project came in over what the town had budgeted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

Upgrades will be completed on a portion of the Kettle Valley Railway trail north of Penticton. (Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen photo)
Contract awarded for improvements to trail near Penticton

Portion of Kettle Valley Railway trail will receive upgrades

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Kelowna seen from the top of Knox Mountain. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
Accessibility concerns raised as Kelowna ponders banning vehicles from Knox Mountain

Knox Mountain Drive, which leads to two lookouts, has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began

(Pixabay photo)
Cow-based wildfire mitigation pilot contended by Southeast Kelowna group

‘Targeted grazing’ program would see 50 cows deployed to 60-hectare parcel above Field Road

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

Most Read