In early June, family doctor Vanessa Redditt and colleagues from Ontario’s refugee health care community released a new vaccine fact sheet titled “Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines: Is There a Difference?”
Translated into 15 languages, the bulletin explained how the two mRNA vaccines are essentially the same, “like two brands of bottled water – the same product but packaged by different companies.”
Dr Redditt, who practices at the Crossroads Clinic for Refugees at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, wrote the newsletter after finding that a handful of her patients were reluctant to take the lesser-known Moderna vaccine.
“I think a lot of it comes from word of mouth,” she said. “If a trusted friend or trusted family member recommended a specific brand – in this case Pfizer – it goes so much further than any government website that says mRNA vaccines are the same. “
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Whether in social circles or on social media, the Pfizer vaccine has become the gold standard in mRNA vaccines, despite the fact that the Moderna product has been shown to be equally safe and effective in clinical trials and studies. in the real world.
Some Canadian drugstore chains, including Sobeys and Rexall, say they have seen Moderna’s reluctance in their customers, while a handful of Ontario public health units have reported people leaving their appointments when they discovered that a clinic offered Moderna instead of the shot taken by the American company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
“At one of our mass vaccination sites, we had people who thought it was Moderna and said, ‘Oh, whatever, I don’t want that’ and walk away,” Kelly said. Grindrod, Pharmacy Manager for the Waterloo Region COVID-19 Response. The clinic began sending healthcare workers to the door to explain why Boston-based Moderna’s product was as good as Pfizer’s.
Until now, the much sought-after Pfizer vaccine has been the most widely available in Canada. That’s about to change: Over the next three weeks, Canada is expected to receive nearly 9.5 million Moderna photos, including one million as part of a recently announced donation from the United States. These doses were to land in Canada on Thursday evening.
Pfizer, meanwhile, is sending about 7.2 million doses to Canada by the start of July.
Overall, the deluge of mRNA vaccines is great news for Canada’s fight against the more transmissible variant of the Delta coronavirus, which was first identified in India. But the shift in predominant suppliers also means that public health officials and front-line vaccinators will need to redouble their efforts to convince Canadians that the two approved mRNA vaccines are created equal. They will often do this as part of Moderna’s second dose offer to people who have taken Pfizer before, or vice versa.
“The best vaccine for your second dose is the vaccine that is available first,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said at a press conference Thursday, announcing that all adults in the province would be eligible to reserve a second dose starting June 28.
This message differs slightly from the recommendation of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, which says that “people who have received a first dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna) should be offered the same mRNA product for their second dose ”, unless the same product is“ readily available ”or the brand for the first dose is unknown.
NACI on Thursday recommended that people who took the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose get the mRNA vaccine as a booster. Provincial governments had previously stopped offering AstraZeneca as a first injection due to its link to a rare but sometimes fatal blood clotting syndrome.
According to Peter Loewen, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto whose research group analyzes weekly online surveys on Canadian attitudes towards COVID-19.
As official advice on who should and should not take AstraZeneca changed, doctors could no longer tell Canadians to just take the first injection offered to them. A clear brand hierarchy has taken shape, Professor Loewen said, with Pfizer at the top and AstraZeneca at the bottom.
Moderna, which most often made the news in Canada due to supply issues, was lost in the overhaul.
According to the most recent data from Professor Loewen, “people say they are 30 points less likely to take an AstraZeneca [shot] that they are Pfizer, and 10 to 15 points less likely to accept Moderna than they are Pfizer.
It’s hard to say how often this results in people turning down a photo of Moderna in the real world. Provincial governments do not track denials by brand, and some provinces, including Saskatchewan, allow people to choose their brand of mRNA when booking, reducing the risk of walkouts.
In Quebec, where the system does not allow people to choose their type of mRNA injection, the health ministry said 11,569 people withdrew after learning about the mark – a refusal rate of 166 per 100,000 doses. These walkouts could include people who proposed AstraZeneca earlier in the campaign.
The health districts of Montreal and Quebec said they haven’t seen people go through Moderna because they want Pfizer.
Dr Redditt of the Crossroads Clinic said that for his refugee patients, finding and getting to an appointment for a vaccine remains a much bigger hurdle than finding a particular vaccine. But she doesn’t want a vulnerable patient to miss an immediate chance to be immunized because they are waiting for Pfizer.
When Dr Redditt explains that Moderna and Pfizer injections use the same technology, work the same, cause similar side effects, and are both about 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 illness after two doses, his patients are generally happy to take Moderna.
“By leveraging trust and relationships,” she said. “I found that I was able to dispel some of the misconceptions quite easily. “
With reports by Perreaux and Laura Stone
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