Toronto: Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Theresa Tam defended public health officials and advisors from criticism that arose following a decision to allow up to four months between coronavirus vaccination shots.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued guidance last week, allowing healthcare providers to significantly extend the window between vaccine shots. The recommendation sparked heated debate in the medical community with one top expert saying the recommendation goes beyond NACI’s jurisdiction and official are conducting nothing less than a “population-level experiment.”
“Increasing the flexibility of the ability of the provinces to deliver that first dose… to as many people as possible, to prevent deaths and hospitalizations, is paramount at the point in time… this was felt to be the most important objectives,” Tam said on Tuesday.
Tam noted that Canada remains in a “delicate situation” with thousands of active cases and hospitalizations.
Real-world data shows increasing evidence of efficacy followig administration of one vaccine dose as the level of immunity is not expected to suddenly drop overnight after two months, Tam said.
The US government’s infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said that the United States will stick with the recommended timelines – 21 for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 28 for Moderna – the number days between shots.
Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow told the parliamentary health committee on Monday that NACI did not contact the drugmaker before making its recommendation. The executive warned that changes to the vaccination schedule and conflicting public health information could erode trust in the vaccine and increase vaccine hesitancy.
Addressing concerns about the potential of vaccine hesitancy, Tam emphasized the need for better communications and community outreach on the part of public health agencies.