by Dr. Nell Thomas

Pfizer and its European partner BioNTech are seeking the FDA’s full approval for their COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is currently administered in the United States under emergency use authorization (EUA). If the FDA says yes, Pfizer would be the first COVID vaccine to gain full approval in the U.S. Similar to EUA, in Canada, all four COVID-19 vaccines are okayed for use under an Interim Order (subsection 30.1 (1) of the Food and Drugs Act. This allows temporary and immediate use of drugs in situations of urgent public health needs. Interim Orders typically are followed by official authorization.

The World Health Organization has now classified the Indian variant B.1.617 as a variant of concern (VOC) at a global level. Remember this variant? It’s the double mutant (with two mutations) that has shown increased transmissibility and possibly more lethality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to define it as a variant of interest. There are now four VOCs: UK, South African, Brazilian and Indian.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, says the Ontario government is pausing the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a first dose because of the blood clotting syndrome Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT).

Health Canada has approved Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine for children in Canada ages 12 to 15. Clinical trial results showed the vaccine had 100 per cent efficacy and was well tolerated in this age group.

Modification of the Moderna mRNA vaccine shows effectiveness against the VOCs from South Africa and Brazil. Adjusting the vaccine has successfully neutralised these variants in laboratory trials, suggesting that boosters against these more contagious and partially vaccine-resistant variants is feasible and effective. Oxford/AstraZeneca is reportedly developing tweaked vaccines against the South African variant and the Brazilian variant, which appear to be the major threats to current immunisations.

You can book your COVID-19 vaccine on the provincial booking system (1-833- 943-3900) or visit covid-19.ontario.ca. Vaccination clinics continue to be offered locally through doctors’ offices as well as pharmacies.

The Haliburton doctors’ office clinics are not available on the provincial booking system, but patients and permanent residents can call 705-457-1212 and select option 5 or 6 to book in the Haliburton doctors’ office.

The Haliburton Family Medical Clinic has four clinics this month: May 14, 17, 18, and 19 for Moderna vaccines.

Who can currently book? Anyone born in 1981 or earlier, or those who fall into the Phase 2 provincial priority grouping. This includes people with highest, high, and at-risk health conditions; those who live or work in a congregate living setting; certain caregivers in congregate settings; and essential frontline workers who cannot work from home (definitions are on the COVID-19 vaccine online booking site).

Also able to book at the Haliburton Medical Clinic are people who had Moderna as their first vaccine and meet the criteria for a reduced interval between first and second dose (if Astra Zeneca, interval is decreased from 16 to 12 weeks; if Pfizer or Moderna it is decreased from 16 weeks to 21-28 days). These are people currently receiving chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, dialysis patients, high risk health care workers, and First Nations and Métis status individuals. We may require a letter from your physician stating your eligibility. Second dose planning is underway and anyone receiving a first dose at the medical centre will be booked accordingly and contacted if the date for the second dose changes.

We are reading about “breakthrough cases” of COVID, illness in people after vaccines. Especially with the numbers of Variants of Concern in our communities rising now, we must keep washing, masking, distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings. And vaccinating. Please review https://covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-restrictions.

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