B.C. faces tough choices as near-term Pfizer vaccine shipments cut in half

British Columbia health officials are working to determine how to prioritize who gets a COVID-19 immunization, amid a reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine they admit will have a significant effect.

Pfizer has announced a temporary delay in shipments of the vaccine as it scales up its European production centre.

Read more: ‘Temporary delay’ chops Canada’s deliveries of Pfizer vaccine in half for four weeks

That means that the 50,000-dose shipment British Columbia was expecting in February will be slashed in half.

Click to play video 'Ottawa reassures Canadians after announcement of COVID-19 vaccine delay' 2:09 Ottawa reassures Canadians after announcement of COVID-19 vaccine delay

Ottawa reassures Canadians after announcement of COVID-19 vaccine delay

“In some sectors the delivery will be delayed and that is just the reality we face,” Dix told Global News on Friday.

“What it will really affect is the February and March period … it obviously impacts the priority groups and second doses as well.”

Read more: Pfizer vaccine delay a ‘blow,’ will affect Alberta’s vaccine schedule: health minister

Dix added that there was no interruption in the supply of the Moderna vaccine, and that the delay would have little effect on Pfizer shipments next week.

Click to play video 'Focus BC: Vaccine rollout, long term care strategy during the pandemic' 23:52 Focus BC: Vaccine rollout, long term care strategy during the pandemic

Focus BC: Vaccine rollout, long term care strategy during the pandemic

In an interview with Global’s Focus BC, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said her team was working to determine who will and won’t get their shot in that time period.

Officials must weigh whether to skip some front-line workers who are still waiting for their shot, or to extend the time period between when each person receives their first and second dose.

Pfizer guidelines call for the doses to be administered 21 days apart, while Canada’s vaccine advisory committee has recommended vaccines be given a maximum of 42 days after the first.

Quebec is considering spreading the doses by as many as 90 days.

Read more: Coronavirus: New vaccine appointments paused in Manitoba as Pfizer announces delay

“People need to be reassured that even after 48 days and longer, it does not just drop off dramatically,” Henry said.

“We will look at how much vaccine is coming in, how many people are due to get their vaccine in that week (when) we will have less, and then we will have to make decisions on we have to optimize who gets vaccine at that time.”

Click to play video 'How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine? Your COVID-19 questions answered' 10:45 How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine? Your COVID-19 questions answered

How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Henry said the silver lining of the temporary delay in doses was that the work Pfizer is doing at its plant will allow it to produce more vaccine down the road, some of which will come to British Columbia.

As of Friday, B.C. had given at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to nearly 76,000 people.

The province has concentrated distribution of its first doses of vaccine to front-line health-care workers, those working and living in long-term care facilities and First Nations communities.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday the issues at Pfizer’s Belgium plant would result in an be an “unfortunate” situation where Canada would see its expected shipment of vaccine in February cut in half.

— With files from Richard Zussman and the Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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