The association representing Ontario pharmacists says about half of all people eligible for the Moderna vaccine refuse it.
“They can cancel their appointment. They can walk away,” said Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.
“This creates a significant challenge,” Bates said, as pharmacists also have to deal with combative patients who wish to purchase vaccines.
A lot of people have done the same Last spring when they questioned the safety of Moderna or the vaccine mix when deploying second doses.
Now they have less choice in this matter as many public health units reserve Pfizer for the younger ones as there is now a greater supply of Moderna. In Toronto, those 18 and over will only be offered Moderna in clinics run by the city from January 6. It’s the same for people aged 30 and over in Durham Region.
Last fall, the Ontario government recommended that people aged 18 to 24 receive the Pfizer vaccine because of a “slight risk” of myocarditis, a rare heart disease, “out of caution.” Pfizer is also only available to people aged 12 to 17.
Jason Chomik switched to Moderna for his third dose on New Years Day, although he postponed two appointments before getting Pfizer for his second dose. He says the burgeoning Omicron variant ultimately prompted him to take the plunge.
“If the numbers hadn’t grown as quickly as they are now, I probably would have waited,” he said.
“I’m glad I received the booster, but I’m still concerned about the long-term effects of mixing the vaccines.”
“They only want Pfizer”
Despite public messages that the vaccine blend is safe, just like Moderna, many are still hesitant to get it. Besides pharmacies, health workers at other vaccination clinics are also seeing this.
“When they sit down on the chair, they immediately confirm [they’re getting Pfizer] with me, ”said Allan Grill, who administers vaccines in York Region and is chief of family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital.
“They only want Pfizer.”
Grill, as well as many infectious disease experts, have long maintained the risk of being infected with COVID-19 is much greater than any risk associated with obtaining any of the vaccines.
“Omicron is spreading like crazy and people are getting sick,” he said.
Even Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, made a plea during his briefing Thursday.
“I too had Moderna as a booster,” he said.
“The latest evidence shows that the protection provided by the Moderna vaccine, especially for the elderly, is very robust.”
Bates said there was more notoriety surrounding Pfizer’s vaccine, especially since many had gotten it for their first or second dose. He also said the pandemic continues to change policies with time and new research.
“People are not used to seeing science evolve in real time,” he said. “And changing the public perception is the hardest thing to do.”
Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the city “is doing everything we can” to make sure people are aware that vaccines are safe and effective.
“In fact, some studies show a particular benefit for those who receive the Moderna vaccine and its effectiveness against the Omicron variant.”