Feds mull advancing vaccine timeline after new recommendations

National Advisory Committee on Immunization is now recommending provinces consider expanding interval between first and second doses

Credit: Getty Images / Alernon77

More provinces may be jumping on board with B.C.’s plans to immunize more residents against COVID-19 by delaying the interval between doses by up to four months.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended on Wednesday (March 3) that provinces should consider significantly delaying administering first and second doses if they’re facing a limited supply of vaccine.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna Inc. (NYSE:MRNA) recommend intervals of three to four weeks, but B.C. officials revealed Monday they’re now expanding the interval from six weeks to 16 weeks effective immediately.

“If you look at it, the timelines would shift and we would be able to cover … the vast majority of the population [sooner],” deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said during a Thursday briefing, adding this could move up the goal of inoculating all Canadians who want a vaccine “by several weeks.”

“We’re having live discussions, looking at calculations.”

Federal officials have repeatedly stated the goal is to provide vaccines to all Canadians who wish for one by the end of September.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said earlier this week it’s possible younger British Columbians who expected to be vaccinated in the summer will be getting their first dose by the spring. This would also mean that older British Columbians would be waiting significantly longer for their second dose.

But Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said he’s still operating on the assumption that all vaccines will be available by the end of September.

Njoo would not provide an estimate as to a date at which all Canadians are likely to get at least a first dose.

And it’s not known yet just how many provinces will join B.C. in extending the interval by up four months in a bid to immunize more people, albeit with less protection.

Meanwhile, Fortin pointed out Canada is “anticipating a steep increase in vaccine availability” beginning in April.

Moderna and Pfizer are contracted to deliver a combined 23 million doses from April to June, while 1.5 million AstraZeneca plc doses from the Serum Institute of India are also due to be delivered during that same period.

If all Canadian provinces joined B.C. in delaying the interval between doses, significantly more than half the country may have some level of protection going into the summer.