Vaccine Update

Just when I think new vaccine news is about to end, along comes a barrage of important new announcements. So here goes.

Book This Weekend Due to an unexpectedly large supply of vaccine coming our way this week, Toronto was able to add many thousands of appointments so that, as of this afternoon, there were thousands of appointments available to be filled this long weekend at the nine city-run clinics. Openings tend to be at locations further from Willowdale, not at the extremely popular Mitchell Field site.

If you haven’t yet had your first shot, this is a great opportunity. Also, if you have an appointment several weeks from now, you can grab one of these earlier spots and your later appointment will be automatically cancelled and made available to someone else.

You can book a Pfizer or equally effective Moderna vaccine by going to https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/. Anyone 18 and older is eligible.

Please pass this on to anyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated. The faster we get our vaccination percentages up, the safer we all will all be and the sooner we can return to some form of a normal life (see re-opening plan, above).

We are already at a terrifically high 62% of all adults in Toronto vaccinated, exceeding the provincial average. We’ve had excellent uptake by millennials – the age group we incorrectly thought might be a problem. Instead, it’s the 50 somethings, who are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID, that have been slower to sign up.

Second Doses of AstraZeneca Available Now

Those who received their first dose of AstraZeneca between March 10 and 19 may opt for an early second dose during the week of May 24 – about six weeks ahead of the previously-planned timeline of approximately 16 weeks between doses.  Eligible individuals who wish to go with this option are encouraged to contact the pharmacy or primary care provider where they received their first dose to book an appointment.

AstraZeneca had been paused in Ontario due to concerns about blood clotting thought to occur at a rate of about one in 60,000 for first doses. It has now been continued for second doses partly because Ontario has a supply which must be used before it expires May 31 and partly because the incidence of clotting with second doses is thought to be more like one in a million.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which have an extraordinarily high effectiveness rate in preventing COVID infection, offer slightly higher protection than AstraZeneca. But all approved vaccines are considered both safe and highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death – especially two weeks after the second dose.

The Province has said that those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca will receive either a second AstraZeneca dose or one of the mRNA vaccines, leaving open the question of whether people will have a choice in that matter. Because initial studies have shown it to be safe to mix vaccines and Canada is expecting lots of Pfizer shipments in future months, I think having a choice is more likely than not. More on that as we know it.

What is still not known is whether mixing vaccines provides greater, lesser, or the same effectiveness as receiving the same vaccine twice. Those study results are expected in June.

Vaccine Blitz Coming for 12-17 Age Group

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved as both safe and effective for those 12-17 and it is likely that those in this age group will be able to book their first shot at a city-run clinic by late May or early June. The City is gearing up for dedicated times for this group during the weeks of June 14 and June 21.

Currently, in Toronto it is being offered for that age through a limited number of pop-ups and clinics. We’ll provide more on the ability to book online for those 12-17 as that information becomes available.

If a high percentage in this group gets vaccinated this summer, September’s back to school will be very much safer. Although younger children are less likely to spread the virus, older teenagers spread it more like adults. This makes a high rate of vaccination in this age group also an important component of achieving herd immunity.

– John