Health unit says AstraZeneca vaccine recipients shouldn’t be concerned about booster shot recommendation

Peterborough's acting medical officer of health says third dose eligibility does not mean vaccine is ineffective

Ontario Premier Doug Ford received his second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at an Etobicoke pharmacy on June 24, 2021. (Photo: Office of the Premier)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford received his second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at an Etobicoke pharmacy on June 24, 2021. (Photo: Office of the Premier)

With those who received two doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine among the first approved for a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna, Peterborough’s acting medical officer of health is reassuring those who received AstraZeneca that is remains effective against COVD-19.

During a Peterborough Public Health media briefing held Thursday (November 4), Dr. Ian Gemmill — who himself, like Premier Doug Ford, has received two doses of AstraZeneca — termed its 80 per cent efficacy rate “pretty darn good” in terms of the protection it offers from serious illness and hospitalization.

“When they get a third dose of an mRNA vaccine, they’re going to have amazing protection,” he said.

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“It is not a reflection of any concerns regarding the effectiveness of any of the vaccines,” Dr. Gemmill said of the booster dose. “We know that the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are very safe. We know that they provide powerful and resistant protection against COVID-19. However, as vaccine protection may begin to wane over time, the booster shots will protect our most vulnerable population.”

Eligible Peterborough-area residents can book a booster shot starting November 8, with the first available appointments on November 9. Those eligible for a booster shot are individuals aged 70 and up, health care workers and essential caregivers in congregate settings such as long-term care and retirement homes, those who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Janssen, and First Nations people and their non-Indigenous household members.

Dr. Gemmill confirmed that, as of next week, all residents of local long-term care homes and retirement residences will have been offered a booster shot.

To support residents eligible for a booster shot, Peterborough Public Health will once again be part of the provincial booking system. Appointments can be booked online at covid19.ontariohealth.ca or by phone 1-833-943-3900.

The overall vaccination picture to date reveals a slow but sure increase in the number of people rolling up their sleeves, be that for a first or second dose.

As of late Wednesday (November 3) afternoon, 86.8 per cent of eligible residents aged 12 and up have received one dose while 83.6 per cent have received two doses. In the age 12 to 17 group, 86.5 per cent have received one dose while 80.4 per cent are now fully immunized.

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“The percentage of fully vaccinated youth has increased by two per cent from two weeks ago,” noted Donna Churipuy, the health unit’s director of public health programs and COVID response incident commander, adding “This is contributing to the low number of cases in our secondary schools.”

Against the backdrop of increasing vaccine percentages and the pending administration of booster shots, the active case count continues to trend downward.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, there were 12 active cases in the region with 36 close contacts of cases being monitored. Both these numbers are down from the last briefing two weeks ago, in particular the close contacts total that was 132 at that point. To date this week since Monday, just three new cases have been detected.

However, this positive news is tempered with word of another COVID-related death involving a man in his 70s who, according to Churipuy, was unvaccinated. The first COVID-related death since September 10, it’s the 24th since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

As for outbreaks, there is one that was just declared in a workplace.

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Meanwhile, on the vaccine certificate enforcement front, Peterborough Public Health environmental health manager Julie Ingram said she’s pleased with the level of compliance.

“A lot of premises that we’ve done secret dining at have been fully compliant doing their proof of vaccine checks and proof of identification checks,” she said. “We know it’s not easy and we know it can be a pain but it’s exceptionally important that these activities continue, especially now with the increase in capacity limits.”

Since the last media briefing on October 21, two Peterborough eateries — Wild Wing on Charlotte Street and PJ’s Diner on Sherbrooke Street — have been charged and fined $880 each for lack of compliance with the proof of vaccination and identification requirement.

Earlier in October, Peterburgers on George Street was similarly fined. Ingram notes there remains “issues with compliance” at that business and an investigation is ongoing.

“We’re now six weeks into this requirement,” notes Ingram. “There was a time and a place for continuous education and warnings — we’re starting to get to the point that we’re past that. Proof of vaccine is an expectation. It’s your responsibility as a business owner to know if the requirement applies to you or not.”

Also in attendance for Thursday’s media briefing was Board of Health chair and Selwyn mayor Andy Mitchell.

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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.