The province’s next target for reopening is within reach after 100,000 doses were plunged into arms over four days in Manitoba during a record-setting week.

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The province’s next target for reopening is within reach after 100,000 doses were plunged into arms over four days in Manitoba during a record-setting week.

As of Wednesday, 73.6 per cent of Manitobans 12 and older had been vaccinated with at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine; 42.4 per cent of them were fully immunized.

Mixing vaccines has good results: study

A study in the United Kingdom that investigated the immune response triggered by mixing AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines has generated positive results.

A study in the United Kingdom that investigated the immune response triggered by mixing AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines has generated positive results.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba's vaccine task force, said the findings of the Com-Cov study by Oxford University has shown vaccine interchangeability results in a comparable or better immune response.

“Mixing vaccines has the same, or better, immune response than taking the same brand of a COVID vaccine twice,” Reimer said.

Reimer said the study confirms what other, smaller studies have shown, but is more reliable because it was a randomized trial with a larger participant pool.

The study found the immune response for two shots of Pfizer and a mixed schedule of AstraZeneca and Pfizer was the same. The immune response was stronger for a mix of vaccines compared with two shots of AstraZeneca.

“The findings of the study reinforce what the medical and scientific community had been predicting, that vaccine interchangeability is a good thing, or at least neutral, but in some cases may even be desirable over taking the same brand (for dose two),” Reimer said.

“The research strongly supports the decision to recommend and to continue recommending mRNA for dose two, no matter what you receive for dose one.”

In Manitoba to date, 51,200 people who had AstraZeneca for their first shot took either Pfizer or Moderna for their second dose.

"It’s really worthy of celebration to know what we have all done together to protect ourselves, protect our loved ones and protect our communities," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province’s vaccine task force. "I want to thank everyone in Manitoba for these exciting numbers."

Johanu Botha, co-lead for the task force and head of operations and logistics, said Manitobans are turning out by the thousands to get their second shots.

By the end of Wednesday, more than 1.4 million doses of vaccine will have been administered in the province, with the final 100,000 delivered in the past four days, Botha said.

"Manitobans are now amongst some of the most fully vaccinated people across the country. We are hitting even more milestones across the province," Botha said.

According to data from COVID-19 Tracker Canada, which compiles vaccination stats from across Canada, Manitoba was leading the provinces in per capita administration rates, as of Wednesday.

"There’s no guarantee that we stay up there. We need to put in all the effort for this big push in July and certainly Manitobans have to keep rolling up their sleeves," Botha said.

The province also set a record on Monday when it administered about 35,000 doses, at least 4,000 of which were first doses.

Johanu Botha, co-lead, Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

RUTH BONNEVILLE

Johanu Botha, co-lead, Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Botha thanked the staff and volunteers at immunization sites.

"I know we’re asking a lot of our teams to fill all of those shifts to get needles into arms. You are life-savers and community heroes," Botha said.

Botha said the province remains on track to hit its Aug. 2 target of vaccinating 75 per cent of the eligible population with one dose, and fully immunizing 50 per cent.

When the target is reached, the Manitoba government has said it will proceed with the next phase of its reopening plan. It calls for a broad reopening with at least 50 per cent capacity restrictions for businesses, services, and facilities, fewer restrictions on specific sectors, and increased gathering sizes. Public health officials have said they want a minimum of two weeks between each reopening phase.

It is likely the province will hit that target ahead of schedule — perhaps as early as next week — although Botha did not want to commit to a date to reach the milestone.

"As long as supply comes in and our capacity holds, which I think it will, it’s really up to all of us together," Botha said. "We're all in this together watching how fast we all get there."

Some of that progress is due to adults mixing vaccine brands by taking a Moderna shot instead of waiting weeks for a second Pfizer dose, Botha said.

So far, 66,301 Manitobans have chosen to take the Moderna vaccine after receiving a shot of Pfizer. About 1,015 people chose to take Pfizer after receiving Moderna for their first shot.

"Overall, our timelines are looking really rosy because of the amount that's going to come in by the end of July, but it's really good to get those numbers up now," Botha said.

Data from the province shows first-dose immunization rates remain steady, with a daily average of 3,114 doses delivered in the past week.

When counting all first doses recorded on the province’s dashboard, 74.9 per cent of Manitobans had received their first shot as of Wednesday.

However, the province has said its population coverage calculation does not include non-residents and people who do not have valid information in the provincial Public Health Information Management System, which results in the lower number.

For second shots, another 84,726 second doses need to be recorded.

More than 220,000 appointments were on the province’s books from June 28 to July 4, and at least 115,000 doses were planned for in the following week.

The large injection of vaccine supply to Manitoba in recent weeks has ramped up the work at super sites, Botha suggested, and attributed the high daily dose counts to the work of mass clinics with high demand for shots.

"We’ve had these... large super sites ready for a long time, and over the last two to three weeks or so, we’ve finally had enough supply to really move them through at this rate," Botha said.

Botha said small clinics and focused immunization teams have boosted first-dose immunization rates, particularly in communities that are not well-served by mass clinics.

Community organizations have received about 20,000 doses to administer, including food processing plants which provided shots to their employees earlier this week.

Vaccines are also available at pharmacies and doctors’ offices throughout Manitoba and on a walk-in basis at all provincial mass vaccine clinics except the downtown Winnipeg convention centre.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.