Despite efforts by health care officials to allay fears, there is still some hesitancy with regard to mixing Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses. This was evident at the Save Max Sports Centre in Brampton on Tuesday when several people left the lineup after hearing that they would be receiving a second jab of Moderna.

Reports show that this situation is not specific to Peel or Ontario as similar incidents were reported from British Columbia in June. This is probably happening elsewhere in the world too!

Infectious disease experts have been trying to reassure us that receiving two different vaccines is safe and effective. But our discomfort with the new inoculations, which is probably heightened by the deluge of misinformation surrounding them, might be keeping the hesitancy alive.

Initially I too was uncomfortable with the idea of mixing doses and prepared myself mentally to receive Moderna if it came to that. After all, wasting the dose that was allocated for me or holding out a bit longer for the Pfizer vaccine were not options I was willing to consider either.

Although I am fully immunized with the same vaccine, one of my sons received a combination of mRNA vaccines. So, the safety and effectiveness of the mixed regime matter to me. He had a headache for a few days, just as he did after the first dose. But he hasn’t grown a horn or tail. Friends who received mixed vaccines, and there are quite a few of them including some whose first jab was AstraZeneca, are all well too. 

Yet, this may not convince those who are apprehensive and waiting till they are sure of receiving a second shot of the same vaccine.

The ‘news’ of the World Health Organization’s misgivings about mixing vaccines, which was largely misunderstood, is likely to have made those who are hesitant even more apprehensive. So on Tuesday several Canadian health officials attempted to publicly counter the headlines. 

They said that the WHO health official’s comments referring to individuals taking multiple vaccines or boosters for travel purposes was being misconstrued as a directive against mixing vaccines. Not surprising, given all the misinformation we’ve had to sift through over the lifespan of this pandemic.

According to news reports, on Monday, the WHO’s Dr. Soumya Swaminathan issued a caution about citizens opting to receive vaccines from different manufacturers for their first and second, or possibly future booster doses. She was quoted as saying that data on the practice remains limited and so it was “a little bit of a dangerous trend”. She also said that it could be a “chaotic” situation if “citizens start deciding” when they should be taking “a second or a third or a fourth dose” and from which vaccine manufacturer.

A WHO statement to CTV, after the controversy arose, seemed to echo the explanation  Canadian health officials tried to give us.

“At our Global press conference on COVID 19, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan explained that individuals should not decide for themselves, public health agencies can, based on available data. Data from mix and match studies of different vaccines are awaited – immunogenicity and safety both need to be evaluated,” the statement said. 

Their main message being to ‘follow the guidelines of local public health agencies’. 

So officials and health care specialists spent the day backing NACI’s recommendations and Health Canada’s approval of mixing vaccines.

Procurement Minister Anita Ananda revealed that she is among the numerous Canadians who have taken a first shot of Pfizer followed by a second dose of Moderna’s vaccine.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, reiterated on CP24 later in the evening that ‘the science supports the mixing of vaccines’ and behaviour towards it must change accordingly.

Canadian health officials have spoken in favour of mixing vaccines several times. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has also said that it is not a new concept. Yet many prefer to believe the fake news and misinformation circulating on social media. 

But with highly infectious variants of concern like Delta threatening a fourth wave in the fall, being fully immunized as soon as possible is the only way to protect ourselves, the health care system and our economy. This is not the time to play favourites.

Public health officials warn that any resurgence will target the unvaccinated. There is plenty of evidence pointing in this direction. Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that more than 99 percent of the people who died from COVID-related causes in June were unvaccinated. The 90-year-old Belgium woman who died after contracting both the Alpha and Beta variants was also unvaccinated.

The unvaccinated are not only a risk to themselves but also to others around them. Don’t gamble with your life and that of your loved ones by delaying or ditching vaccine appointments. 

 

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