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B.C.'s Moderna supply ramping up as Pfizer faces 'upcoming challenges'

Pfizer doses expected to plunge in early July

It looks like a role reversal is in store for the two most common COVID-19 vaccines deployed across B.C. with the province’s top doctor cautioning about “upcoming challenges” with the supply of Pfizer Inc. doses.

“That is something that happens when we’re in a global pandemic with a global vaccine supply,” B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday, referring to a disruption in deliveries coming in July.

A total of 380,880 Pfizer doses were originally expected to arrive in B.C. the first week of July. Instead, 121,680 doses are now due to arrive that week.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said similar disruptions are expected the following week before the numbers are made up by the end of the month.

“So this has some effect on what we’re trying to do,” he said.

But the Moderna Inc. vaccine, which has been prone to considerably more supply disruptions, will be coming in at greater numbers.

Next week, 378,420 Moderna doses are due to arrive, followed by 382,760 doses the following week.

“So that is a significant increase,” Dix said, adding the province currently has no delivery guarantees from Moderna going into next month.

Henry also noted that vaccine clinics will do their best to have both vaccines on hands to offer products that align with recipients’ first doses but that there is no guarantee.

Instead, she reiterated that the two mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — can be safely mixed and matched between doses.

Earlier in the day, the National Advisory Committe on Immunization (NACI) updated its own recommendations for recipients of the AstraZeneca plc vaccine.

"An mRNA vaccine is now preferred as the second dose for individuals who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, based on emerging evidence of a potentially better immune response from this mixed vaccine schedule," NACI said in a statement.

Henry said she has reviewed NACI’s conclusions, calling them “not surprising.”

But she added the recommendations from NACI are based on preliminary data that came from a German study involving a small number of people.

She emphasized that two doses of AstraZeneca have proven safe and effective both in B.C. and other jurisdictions.

To date, 3,463,863 British Columbians — or 74.8% of those 12 and up — have received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 768,008 have received a second dose.

Meanwhile, Henry said COVID-19 safety plans will no longer be required once the province enters Step 3 of its reopening plan.

B.C. entered Step 2 earlier this week and could potentially enter Step 3 as early as July 1, depending on certain benchmarks surrounding vaccinations and case counts.

Provincial officials will be providing “detailed guidance” in the coming weeks about general procedures businesses should adopt to minimize health risks in the workplace, Henry said.