Quebec offering 'additional' doses of COVID-19 vaccines with 'no existing studies' on side effects

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By Rachel Lau

MONTREAL -- The Quebec government is offering those inoculated with AstraZeneca, but looking to travel to a country where that vaccine isn't recognized, an additional dose of a COVID-19 injection.

"This is an additional dose, not a third dose," explains Robert Maranda, director of communications with Quebec's health ministry (MSSS). "This additional dose may be given to anyone whose vaccination is not recognized in the country they are travelling to."

However, the government admits it is doing so without any scientific backing on potential side effects.

"There is no vaccine safety data for these situations," Maranda notes, saying those considering getting the additional dose would receive further information ahead of making the decision.

"The record should indicate that 'counselling' was done and that the person maintained their decision to want this additional dose," he says, though he did not elaborate on what kind of "counselling" would be offered.

"We are using people's good judgment," Maranda said. "The person will need to be counselled appropriately to be aware of the potential risks associated with this additional dose compared to the benefits of the planned trip. There are no studies to evaluate the impact of this additional dose."

Booster shots have not been advised for additional protection against COVID-19 and the ministry admits recipients could have "adverse vaccine reactions [that] may be more frequent and severe."

People who decide they do want an additional dose will not have to show proof of travel in order to get it.

Maranda adds vaccine clinics in the province have been advised that travelling Quebecers may come seeking this additional inoculation.

"It is up to each individual to weigh the risks and benefits," he concluded.

SUPERFLUOUS SURPLUS

Dr. Christopher Labos points out for some immuno-compromised individuals, a third dose of vaccine could help boost their immune systems.

"This isn't the case here," he tells CTV News. "This is about giving people a dose to go around a bureaucratic requirement."

Currently, the AstraZeneca vaccine is not recognized in some countries, including the United States.

"I have qualms about giving people a vaccine, not for medical reasons, but for administrative ones," Labos stated.

He insists governments ought instead to work together to change the rules rather than gratuitously inoculate people who want to cross the border.

"So many people have no access and we're giving extra doses here to people," he said.

Labos acknowledges there probably won't be any major consequences for individuals opting to get an additional dose of vaccine, but notes a more efficient use of these doses would be to distribute them to countries that are struggling to secure supply.

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