Canadian PM opts for Moderna vaccine for second dose

Justin Trudeau had received the AZ jab for the first dose at a pharmacy in April. He is scheduled to be inoculated on Friday in Ottawa.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives a thumbs after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine while walking with his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on April 23. (Bloomberg)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives a thumbs after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine while walking with his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on April 23. (Bloomberg)
Updated on Jul 02, 2021 09:13 PM IST
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ByAnirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Amit Chanda

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has opted for the Moderna vaccine for his second dose of the Covid-19 jab after having received the AstraZeneca one for the first.

Trudeau is scheduled to be inoculated on Friday in Ottawa.

The choice of the mRNA vaccine manufactured by the American firm came after Canadian health authorities updated guidance allowing for vaccine interchangeability. On June 17, the National Advisory Committee on Immunisation (NACI) announced that mRNA Covid-19 vaccines were deemed the “preferred” jabs for both the first and second dose even if the first was administered using AZ, which is manufactured in India under the Covishield brand name.

In its recommendations, NACI said the mRNA vaccines should be preferred unless “is inaccessible or there is a contraindication, for example, an allergy to an mRNA vaccine or its components”. Only in the latter circumstances should a viral vector vaccine, like AZ, be offered.

It also endorsed vaccine interchangeability, basically that doses can now be mixed with those receiving the first dose of AZ now being given the second dose as an mRNA vaccine such as those from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

NACI said that “emerging evidence” from studies in Germany have suggested a “potentially better immune response, including against variants of concern, when a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is followed by a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine, compared to two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine”. Similarly, it said, evidence suggested that such mixing “has a good safety profile”.

The Trudeaus received their first injection at a pharmacy in Ottawa, and just before getting the jab, the Prime Minister said he was “very excited” to get it.

While there have been concerns about adverse reactions to the AZ vaccine, Canadian health authorities have maintained that the “benefits of vaccines authorised in Canada continue to outweigh the risks”.

In its latest data on adverse events linked to vaccines, the Public Health Agency of Canada had noted that of the 31,400,466 doses administered till June 18, just 1,719 or 0.005% had caused serious reactions. These include anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, cases of blood clotting, a rare syndrome associated following vaccination with AZ/Covishield vaccine.

Health authorities are also monitoring other reactions like capillary leak and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, linked to the AZ jab. The former causes fluid to leak from small blood vessels while the latter is an immune disorder.

Health Canada has also recently introduced labelling for the mRNA vaccines, warning of the possibility of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart).

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