At the beginning of last December, the government announced it would start administering vaccines to stop the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vaccine Bulletin, Dec.9,2020 https://news.gov.mb.ca/news/?archive=&item=50009
Manitobans would receive one of three expedited vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca) that had been given provisional approval on an interim basis, two of which worked best for some age groups and not others.
Vaccines were the answer, we were told. If enough people got vaccinated, the lockdowns, face masks, social distancing, and travel restrictions could be eliminated and society could get back to normal.
The goal to reach herd immunity was as low as 40 percent of the population vaccinated by some estimates, but more often cited as 70 percent.
"Trust the science," they said.
"Screw the science," was the message delivered in early March, three months later, by National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and here by Manitoba's Vaccine Implementation Task Force.
Health Canada's authorizations for the expedited vaccines given provisional approval on an interim basis stated that the time between first and second doses of Pfizer should be 21 days, of Moderna, 28 days and of AstraZeneca up to 12 weeks.
NACI now said provinces could delay the Pfizer and Moderna second doses up to four months---12 weeks.
That's six times longer than the manufacturers of the Pfizer vaccine tested their vaccine for, and four times longer than Moderna testing.
Alarmed, Pfizer issued a formal letter to the government of Canada. Read it in full:
Statement: Pfizer position on dosing intervals of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
We recognize that recommendations on alternative dosing intervals reside with health authorities and may include recommendations due to public health principles. However, as a biopharmaceutical company working in a highly regulated industry, our position is supported by the label and indication agreed upon with Health Canada and informed by data from our Phase 3 study.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s Phase 3 study for the COVID-19 vaccine was designed to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and efficacy following a 2-dose schedule, separated by 21 days. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design.
Data from the Phase 3 study demonstrated that, although protection from the vaccine appears to begin as early as 12 days after the first dose, two doses of the vaccine are required to provide the maximum protection against the disease, a vaccine efficacy of 95%. There are no data from this study to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days.
We remain committed to our ongoing dialogue with regulators, health authorities and governments, and to our continued data sharing efforts to help inform any public health decisions aimed at defeating this devastating pandemic.
Manitoba ignored Pfizer's warning and went ahead with the delayed doses.
May, 2021 ... two months later…
The first reports of blood clots in people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine. Health authorities rushed to say this was a rare occurence, extremely rare, super rare. One in a million, they said.
Which, as more reports came in, became one in half a million.
Then one in 250,000, one in 60,000, and finally they gave up counting and just slapped a warning label on AstraZeneca vaccine saying 'side effect: blood clots.'
In Manitoba, the concern was that people who got an AstraZeneca shot would refuse their second shot.
* So Manitoba became the first province in Canada to encourage the mix-and-match of vaccines.
May 31, 2021 — Manitoba becomes the first province to allow people who got a first dose of the ... COVID-19 vaccine to get a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
* Not all scientists thought that was a good idea.
Canadian officials are defending Canada's mix-and-match approach to vaccinations after the World Health Organization warned Monday about “dangerous trends” in individual vaccination strategies, including mixing and matching.
In an online briefing, the WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan suggested to reporters that mixing and matching is dangerous because there is not currently enough data to support it.
"It's a little bit of a dangerous trend here. We are in a data-free, evidence-free zone as far as mix and match," Swaminathan said in response to a question about booster shots.
* Canada said it wasn't worried about the lack of data.
While there have not been any studies specifically examining mixing and matching Pfizer and Moderna, the NACI said it was basing its recommendation on sound principles of vaccinology and the fact that both vaccines have very similar efficacy and side effects and function in a very similar way.
“No data currently exist on the interchangeability of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines,” the NACI said in its recommendation. “However, there is no reason to believe that mRNA vaccine series completion with a different authorized mRNA vaccine product will result in any additional safety issues or deficiency in protection.”
* You could find Canadian scientists who supported the Canadian approach.
"It's not unusual to mix and match," said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon."Combining vaccines is nothing new," she said. "There's no reason to expect that it wouldn't be safe."
"It is already accepted around the world for other vaccines," she said. "Do you ask what flu vaccine you get every year? They're made by different manufacturers."
* But Manitoba medical leaders confessed it wasn't that simple.
OTTAWA -- Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force, says that new vaccine recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on mixing mRNA vaccines will be a form of trial and error.
“Well in some ways, during a pandemic everything we do is a big human experiment,” she said in an interview with CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday. “Because we're all having to learn together at the same time, about what works the best.”
So, seven months after announcing that vaccines were the answer to the Covid pandemic:
- Canadians were receiving a first dose of one of three expedited vaccines still only given provisional approval on an interim basis, one of which vaccine was linked to causing blood clots;
- They were getting a second dose of a vaccine given only provisional approval on an interim basis which was possibly being administered well outside the tested limits of the manufacturers of any of the three vaccines; a practice unsupported by data and which the World Health Organization said was dangerous;
- Manitobans were first to get that second dose of an expedited vaccine being used under provisional approval on an interim basis which was possibly of another expedited vaccine given provisional approval on an interim basis and which was developed under a different principle and was untested as a safe replacement for the first.
Just following the science.
Then came August, 2021.
It turned out that a lot of the "science" being followed in Canada could be summed up with "what's Israel doing, let's do it too."
Israel was the model, with 78 percent of residents over 12 double vaccinated (mostly with Pfizer vaccine). But by August there was trouble. The protection offered by the vaccine after six months was dropping. Waning, was the word being used.
Israel said it had begun experiencing high infection rates, actually one of the world's highest, with more than half of those infections in fully vaccinated people.
Israel was going to start giving its citizens booster shots. Then came news Monday that Israel's national coronavirus spokesman said people should expect to get a fourth vaccination soon, with new vaccinations every five or six months.
"This is our life from now on, in waves," said Salman Zarka, coronavirus czar.
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