Sask. to extend period between COVID-19 vaccine doses; all adults to have access to 1st dose by end of June
REGINA -- Saskatchewan will extend the interval between the first and second COVID-19 doses, following new advice from a national panel of medical experts, Premier Scott Moe said on Thursday.
“I would just say, from a Saskatchewan’s perspective and we'll be announcing that shortly that we are officially moving to the four month interval,” Moe said a meeting with other Canadian premiers.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended Wednesday the interval between doses of all three approved COVID-19 vaccines could be stretched up to four months.
The committee said given the limited supply of vaccine, provinces should expand the number people benefitting from the first dose of the vaccine by extending the time between doses.
Though four months of data has not been collected yet, NACI said the first two months of are showing “high levels of protection.”
The panel of medical experts previously recommended three weeks between Pfizer doses, four weeks between Moderna and four to 12 weeks between AstraZeneca shots.
Saskatchewan health officials appeared confident in the advisory panel’s recommendation that a single dose would provide sufficient protection.
“What we've seen in real world conditions…is that after the first dose, the level of protection reaches 80 per cent and that keeps increasing,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer. “Obviously, we still recommend a second dose and there’s indications that the second dose is given at any point, like three months, four months, that will likely give a booster, which will extend the level of immunity.”
The doctor said the adjustment will be closely monitored and guidance may change if concerns arise. He also emphasized the shift could pull the province out of the grips of the pandemic sooner than expected.
“Twelve months ago, we did not know when the pandemic will end and most people thought 24 months. Now we are looking at maybe 12 weeks and we could start coming out of it,” said Dr. Shahab.
Moe said Tuesday extending the period – along with continued access to vaccines – could mean everyone in the province could get their first dose by the end of June.
The province will start implementing this new guideline Friday.
The province is making an exception to Phase 1 criteria to allow the AstraZeneca vaccine to be given to residents ages 60 to 64, in addition to priority health care workers.
NACI has advised Tuesday the newly approved vaccine not be used for people above the age of 65.
According to a press release, health care workers will begin administering the AstraZeneca jabs on Mar. 22. It is expected all 15,500 doses will be administered within one week.