Half of people offered Moderna COVID injection refuse it, Ontario Pharmacists Association says

About half of all individuals in Ontario who are offered a Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine now decline.

So says Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.

Bates said this data is not collected in a “centralized manner”, adding that it is “anecdotal”.

“It’s based on my conversations with many of our affiliated pharmacists who have had people walk away when they find out it’s Moderna, or they’ve canceled appointments or just didn’t show up,” he said.

Bates said it also takes “a lot longer” to convince people expecting a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that “Moderna is a very wise choice.”

Global News reached out to Ontario’s Department of Health on Friday to determine what the province was doing to curtail “vaccine shopping” but heard nothing back at the time of publication.

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When asked why so many people are refusing the Moderna shot, Bates said two things are happening “at the same time.”

“One is what we’ll call consumer perception, brand awareness,” he explained. “There’s generally more familiarity with Pfizer’s company — and I think that leads to a lot of people even subconsciously wanting to choose it.”

Bates said others are still “uncertain” whether mixing vaccines is safe.

“What we saw early in the pandemic – in March 2021 – we had more supply from Pfizer,” he said, noting that the supply for Moderna was being interrupted.

The majority of people received a first or second dose of Pfizer, Bates said.

“So if there’s any hesitation around mixing, people would rather have the third dose the same,” he said.

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“But we know that the efficacy of Moderna is much greater, or at least a little greater against the Omicron and Delta variants, and it is safe and effective.”

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Bates said both Pfizer and Moderna are “extremely good vaccines — the same thing.”

“One mRNA has to be the same as another,” he said. “And ultimately that’s the message we need from public health.”

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On December 20, 2021, the provincial government opened the availability of boosters to anyone over the age of 18 in Ontario who had received their last dose more than three months earlier.

However, due to supply restrictions across the province, doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are prioritized for younger segments of the population, as only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in children ages five to 11, and it is the recommended mRNA. for use on persons under 29 years of age.

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Bates said the problem with “vaccine shopping” is that individuals who choose to wait for a Pfizer vaccine are less protected against COVID-19.

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“Their immunity wanes after about six months of the second dose, and they’re not as well protected,” he said. “So the chance, or likelihood, of contracting COVID increases significantly.”

Bates said booster COVID-19 doses help prevent infection and prevent serious illness or symptoms.

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“There are those who only have a two-dose series, where they are at risk of developing more severe symptoms and possibly hospitalization,” he explained. “That has an impact on public health [and] it has an impact on our healthcare system, when people are hospitalized, take up valuable resources, and you create that capacity challenge that we’re talking about.”

Ultimately, Bates said the “best approach is to get the vaccine that’s available so that you maximize your protection and those around you as well.”

What did the provincial government say?

Both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are approved for use by the federal and provincial governments.

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The shots are green-lit for use as primary vaccines and boosters. The mRNA vaccines can be safely mixed, health officials say.

In September, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine be used on individuals 18 to 24 years old. The Pfizer vaccine is also used for children ages 12 to 17.

On December 16, 2021, the county released updated booster shot guidelines recommending that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines be used for individuals 18 to 29 years old.

The ministry said there were lower reported rates of myocarditis – heart inflammation – after vaccination with a 30 microgram dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, compared with a 100 microgram Moderna injection, based on data from the second dose.

Those in that age group can still receive a Moderna vaccine, but they must provide informed consent.

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When asked whether people between the ages of 18 and 29 should wait for a Pfizer booster vaccine, Bates said he would advise people to “get Modernna.”

Bates said the risk of myocarditis after receiving the Moderna vaccine is “very, very low.”

“I think given the risk profile, everyone will have to make their own assessment, but it’s still better to get the vaccine whether that’s Moderna at 18-plus or not,” he said.

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According to the latest data released Friday by the provincial government, 82 percent of all eligible Ontarios have been fully vaccinated. Six percent are considered partially vaccinated, while 12 percent remain unvaccinated.

By Friday, 4,406,948 people in Ontario had received their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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What has Toronto Public Health said?

In an email to Global News on Friday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) said the availability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the city “depends on the province of Ontario’s vaccine supply.”

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TPH said the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics offer mRNA vaccines – Pfizer or Moderna.

“The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are incredibly similar with nearly identical efficacy rates,” the email reads. “Clinic clients may choose not to proceed with vaccination, depending on what is available in the clinic when they arrive.”

TPH said the city “does not keep records” of people who have declined vaccination appointments because of the type of vaccine brand available.

Overall, though, TPH said, “Both vaccines have similar side effects and are safe, effective and interchangeable.”

The public health agency said it is “following provincial guidelines for recommended administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, including by age group.”

A press release from the City of Toronto issued Monday said that while clinics and healthcare partners across Ontario await shipments of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines later this month, beginning Jan. 6, all City of Toronto-run clinics will receive the Moderna COVID vaccine. will administer. 19 vaccine for residents aged 18 and over.

Similarly, in Durham, beginning Dec. 29, individuals 30 and older would receive the Moderna Spikevax vaccine so that Pfizer doses could be prioritized for younger segments of the population.

Moderna says booster effective to Omicron

Last month, Moderna Inc. in a lab test that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine appeared to be protective against the Omicron variant.

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The company said the current version of the shot would remain Moderna’s “first line of defense against Omicron.”

Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Paul Burton, told Reuters that the vaccine now available is “highly effective and extremely safe”.

Burton told the media the vaccine would protect people “through these winter months, when we’re going to see the heaviest push from Omicron.”

According to Moderna, a two-dose course of the vaccine generated low neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant, but a 50 microgram booster increased the neutralizing antibodies by a factor of 37.

In addition, the company said a 100 microgram booster boosted antibody levels to more than 80-fold pre-boost levels.

— With files from Reuters

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