Alberta shifting AstraZeneca supply to second dose appointments only

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Higher-than-anticipated risk of blood clots leads province to pause rollout of first doses, turning entirely to mRNA vaccines.

The legal action piles further pressure on AstraZeneca after a link was made between its vaccine and very rare but often fatal blood clots coupled with low platelet levels.

Alberta Health says people are now eligible for their second dose of AstraZeneca no later than four months - and no earlier than 12 weeks - after the first dose.

Alberta has stopped administering first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of limited supply, a provincial government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Dr. Eddy Lang, department head of emergency medicine at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, says there appears to be no definitive evidence as to whether mixing and matching separate vaccine doses is a good idea but says the uncertainty is no reason to delay getting an initial vaccination.

Canada has confirmed 12 cases of VITT - vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia - and three deaths.

The province has administered about 255,000 first doses of AstraZeneca and 2,200 second doses.

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In the wake of Ontario's decision Tuesday to suspend the use of AstraZeneca for first doses, Quebec says it has no plans to make a similar move. The main contention was the step would ensure intellectual property rights such as patents, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to timely access of affordable vaccines and medicines or to scaling up research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat covid. He said the province is not certain as to when or if more AstraZeneca doses will arrive.

Guidance for Ontarians who got AstraZeneca as their first shot will be coming soon, Dr. Dirk Huyer, provincial outbreak response coordinator, said.

"Data from the United Kingdom points to a much reduced risk of VITT in second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and we look forward to providing more guidance in advance of people needing to receive their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine when their time for the second dose comes".

It is understood AstraZeneca is delivering doses at a rate of 10 million per month - well below the planned schedule.

To a question on joint production of coronavirus vaccines, Smith said the setting up of joint productions takes time and that the USA was looking at how it can invest in boosting production.

The federal vaccine procurement centre told CTV Montreal that many more AstraZeneca doses are on the way: 655,000 COVAX doses "within the next number of weeks", and one million in June. According to the Commission, the company is now set to provide 70 million doses in the second quarter, rather than the 180 million it had promised.

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