It’s been nearly three months since Alberta allowed people between the ages of 50 and 64 to book their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and now many are confused about when they’ll get their second doses.
Alberta opened up bookings on March 10. So, on June 2 — next Wednesday — it will be 12 weeks since some Albertans received their first shot.
John Chwyl got the first appointment he could find.
“It was something I needed to do to keep myself healthy, well and alive.
“So I very willingly got the first vaccination,” he said.
Since then, controversy has swirled around the AstraZeneca vaccine, specifically concerns around rare blood clots, changing guidelines around its usage, and supply concerns.
Chwyl said it all left him feeling anxious about his second dose.
“I want to be fully vaccinated because as I understand, when I’m fully vaccinated, I’m at my most protected,” he said.
Then there was talk about potentially mixing and matching second doses, but late last week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said there wasn’t enough science to support that, and recommended getting the same vaccine for the second shot.
Knowing he was fast approaching 12 weeks since his first dose, Chwyl called to try and book his second, but was told he couldn’t and needed to wait.
He’s not alone. Another Edmontonian, who asked to remain anonymous, sent Global News a voicemail he received from HealthLink, after calling to inquire about his second dose of AstraZeneca.
It said: “You’re looking for your second dose of AstraZeneca, we apparently have some appointments in the Edmonton region, if you could give us a call back at 811.”
But when the man called to make the booking, he says he was told the policy changed and he too would have to wait.
A screengrab of Alberta Health Services website also shows that at one point last week, it was directing people to call 811 to book second doses but that has since been removed.
For Chwyl, the messaging is confusing.
“I get that it’s an ever-changing process, it’s brand new for all of us. But what I can’t understand is the inconsistency from day to day to day. We’re here, then we’re here, then we’re back there. It’s mind boggling.”
But an infectious disease researcher from the University of Calgary, Dr. Craig Jenne, said people don’t need to worry yet.
“The clinical studies from AstraZeneca, which was a little different than the two mRNA vaccines, actually demonstrated better protection if you waited at least 12 weeks for that booster.”
Jenne said second doses are important, as they boost immune memory and provide better protection against the variants, but he thinks appointments will come soon.
“I would anticipate those people that are coming up to three months right now will start to receive their notifications for the booster shot.”
Alberta Health currently has 7,300 doses of AstraZeneca and they don’t expire until the end of June, said spokesperson Tom McMillan.
“Albertans are eligible for their second dose of AstraZeneca no later than four months and no earlier than three months after the first dose,” he explained.
However, 7,300 shots won’t be enough.
Global News asked on two separate occasions whether Alberta has asked for more AstraZeneca and when it’s coming — and if not, why not. Those inquiries went unanswered.
When Premier Jason Kenney announced Alberta’s re-opening plan, it added to Chwyl’s anxiety.
“Get the second vaccination as quickly as you possibly can. But my government is telling me it doesn’t really matter.
“We will get to enjoy a beautiful summer if everyone just gets one vaccine. But not everyone, just 70 per cent, and not really 70 per cent, but just 70 per cent of everyone who is eligible. So, what is it?”
He said even if the UCP allows festivals, concerts and other big events to go on, he won’t be attending.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable heading out into these large, public gatherings with just a single dose.”
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