Couple's travel plans on hold because mixed vaccine doses not widely acceptedThousands of Canadians received different doses of vaccines, on the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), and public health officials.
Author of the article: Elizabeth Payne
Publishing date: Jul 27, 2021 • 2 hours ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
Louise Jacob and Rémi Guertin say they will be unable to go on two cruises they have booked for next year or visit their home in Florida because Louise received AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, and is not recognized as been fully vaccinated. PHOTO BY SUPPLIED
Louise Jacob and Rémi Guertin have big travel plans after the pandemic, but now those plans are uncertain because Jacob, like many Canadians, received two different doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Because she received AstraZeneca first and then Moderna, Jacob, 64, is not considered fully vaccinated internationally. Nor is she considered fully vaccinated with the two cruise companies the couple is booked with for 2022. That is despite the fact that some studies have shown better protection against COVID-19 when doses are mixed.
That means the Carlsbad Springs couple’s pandemic-delayed cruises — one scheduled for January 2022 and the other for next summer — are now in doubt.
So is travel to the house they own in Florida, for the same reason. The couple returned to Ontario in a hurry in March 2020 as the pandemic began. The snowbirds would normally go to Florida in October for the winter, but it is unlikely they will be able to this year.
“We don’t know if we would be allowed to enter the United States,” said Guertin, 73, who did not receive mixed doses of vaccine.
Jacob is not alone. Thousands of Canadians received different doses of vaccines, on the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), and public health officials.
Many who received a first dose of AstraZeneca were following public health advice to take the first dose offered and not wait for another vaccine. Later, Ontario and other provinces stopped administering AstraZeneca as a first dose because of concern about rare cases of blood clots associated with the vaccine.
Studies have subsequently shown that mixing doses can result in stronger protection against COVID-19 than receiving two doses of the same vaccine.
The Quebec government said this week it would offer third doses to people in Jacob’s situation to allow for international travel. If she lived in Quebec, she would be eligible to receive another dose of Moderna vaccine.
A Quebec health department spokesperson said there is no evidence a third dose would provide better protection and there are no studies that assess the impact of a third dose after mixed doses. The government recommends people receive counselling about potential risks and benefits.
Ontario has not taken that step. Instead, it is encouraging the federal government to convince other countries to allow Canadians with two different doses to travel.
“Individuals who have received two doses of Health Canada approved vaccines have completed their vaccine series,” Ministry of Health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said. “Per the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), there is currently no evidence on the need for any booster doses after the vaccine series is complete for COVID-19 vaccines authorized by Health Canada. The Ministry of Health and NACI will continue to monitor the evidence and update recommendations as needed.”
In a letter to federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc this week, Health Minister Christine Elliott and solicitor general Sylvia Jones encouraged the federal government to push internationally that Canadians who received two different doses are considered fully vaccinated.
“It is critical for the integrity and confidence in Ontario’s and Canada’s vaccination programs, as well as for those who have done the right thing by acting consistent with guidance, that people who have received two doses of a Health Canada approved vaccine should be treated as immunized both at home and abroad,” they wrote.
“We ask the Government of Canada to work with the WHO to update its guidance to international partners that mixing vaccines should be internationally accepted as a complete vaccine regimen.”
Canada is not the only country to approve mixing and matching vaccine doses. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, received a shot of AstraZeneca followed by Moderna. The approach has not been endorsed by the World Health Organization.
It is not yet clear whether Canadians will be issued federal vaccine passports and, if so, what information they will contain. In Ontario, people receive a receipt for a second vaccine stating they have received two approved doses. This week, Premier Doug Ford said that is sufficient proof of full vaccination but he wouldn’t stand in the way of a federal government-issued travel passport.
Jacob and Guertin are disappointed, but philosophical, about the situation.
“We will just have to travel in Canada,” said Jacob.
They will lose money, however, if they have to cancel the Caribbean cruise they had planned for January.
Jacob said she learned about the vaccine restrictions by some cruise lines on a website that many frequent cruisers consult. The couple are among those frequent cruisers. They had to cancel five planned cruises during the pandemic.
When the pair retired — she from the federal government and he from the military — they decided to spend as much time as possible travelling.
She said she would like Ontario to do what Quebec is and allow the option of a third dose for people like her.
Meanwhile, she said, “I suspect travel is going to be on and off for the next year.”
Thousands of Canadians received different doses of vaccines on the advice of NACI and public health officials.