At a Monday briefing, the province's chief medical officer of health officially recommended that those who received AstraZeneca for their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine switch to an mRNA shot for their second, however the choice will still be up to those Nova Scotians.
Last month the province paused its use of the viral vector vaccine. It has been linked to a rare blood clotting condition called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT.
Following updated guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, last week it was announced people who already had AstraZeneca can receive it again, or they can switch to Pfizer or Moderna.
"There is now a small study showing that a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, so Pfizer or Moderna, after a first dose of AstraZeneca results in a better immune response than two doses of AstraZeneca," explained Dr. Robert Strang today.
"Based on this emerging evidence and the risk of a rare but serious blood clotting event with the AstraZeneca vaccine, I'm now recommending that anyone who got a first dose of AstraZeneca get a second dose with an mRNA vaccine."
Last week Strang cautioned the mixing of vaccines can lead to a slight increase in minor and short-lived side effects such as fatigue, fever or pain at the injection site.
He said the first batch of invitations to rebook second doses will be sent out to AstraZeneca receivers in the next day or two. That email will contain information to help them make the choice that's best for them.
"And I encourage you to read through it before you make your decision," he said.
Nova Scotia has received 60,000 AstraZeneca doses so far, and around 58,000 of those have been injected into arms, leaving roughly 2,000 doses that will expire at the end of the month.
"We do have AstraZeneca vaccine if that's what their choice is, and we do have the ability to get additional vaccine with a longer shelf life," the doctor stated.
Nova Scotia has had one confirmed case of VITT in a man in his 40s.
Anyone who experiences the following symptoms after receiving an AstraZeneca vaccine should get medical help right away or call 911:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- stomach pain that will not go away
- leg swelling
- a sudden and severe headache
- a headache that will not go away and is getting worse
- blurred vision
- skin bruising (other than the area vaccinated), reddish or purplish spots or blood blisters under the skin
Symptoms are most likely to occur between days 14 and 28 after receiving the injection.