This is the new AstraZeneca second dose guidance for Windsor-Essex residents

The AstraZeneca vaccine is administered to an Essex County resident at Brady’s Druge Store in Essex on March 16, 2021. (Rich Garton / CTV Windsor)

The Ontario government, health experts and the Windsor-Essex medical officer of health are providing updated guidance for people who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and who have not yet received their second dose.

Those individuals can mix COVID-19 vaccines or get a second dose of AstraZeneca, said a statement from the province on Thursday. This decision is in alignment with updated guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said there are about 37,000 residents in Windsor-Essex who received the first dose of AstraZeneca.

“We are providing individuals who have received only their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine with two recommended options based on the available data and evidence and will continue to work with Health Canada to monitor the quality and efficacy of all COVID-19 vaccines being used in Ontario,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

Effective June 4, 2021, Ontarians who have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can choose to either receive a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, or an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine for their second dose.

The province said both second-dose options available to individuals who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are safe and provide strong protection against COVID-19 and will count as a completed series.

These second dose options will be provided at the recommended 12-week interval.

“Now with the additional data, and the NACI recommendation I feel more comfortable to say that people who have received AstraZeneca as their first dose they now have an option to chose an mRNA vaccine,” said Windsor-Essex medical health officer Dr. Wajid Ahmed.

He said there could be some minor side effects from switching to an mRNA vaccine as the second dose, including redness, swelling, pain or fever.

“Please note that based on the clinical trial data, these individuals may experience side effects that are more intense due to the immune response to changing the vaccine,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed added that the efficacy of a mixing AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine is good.

“Your immune response will be similar to what you would expect in a fully vaccinated person,” said Ahmed.

The province said beginning June 4, individuals who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 12 weeks ago and who would like their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, can contact the pharmacy or primary care provider where they received their first dose to book an appointment.

Individuals who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and are opting to receive an mRNA vaccine have the option to schedule their second dose appointment at a participating pharmacy where the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are administered.

WECHU is also working to allow second dose appointments for mRNA vaccines at the local clinics through the health unit's booking system.

Primary care settings and pharmacies may also be reaching out to eligible Ontarians.

WECHU distributed 4960 doses to pharmacies and 1100 doses to primary care provider in WEC (total 6060). Ministry direct deliveries were approximately 3000 doses and administered by pharmacies so far is 5369 doses.