'You’ll save more lives': Calls grow for sooner second-doses for elderly as Ontario expands eligibility
TORONTO -- Draisa Frischman will soon turn 88 in her Toronto hot-spot apartment building, where she lives independently—counting down the days until she can receive her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Frischman was first vaccinated in March, and her daughter Carole Langer says her mother won’t feel safe until she is fully immunized.
“The elderly are vulnerable right now with only the one dose,” Langer said. “She’s very anxious, she’s waiting for that second shot.”
As the province prepares to expand vaccine eligibility to Ontarians as young as 12, some experts are calling for elderly populations to receive their second doses before young people receive their first.
“You’ll save more hospitalization, and you’ll save more lives by that strategy,” Toronto cardiologist Dr. Harry Rakowski told CTV News Toronto Thursday.
The current dosing interval for most populations within Ontario is four months, as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in the context of limited vaccine supply—considerably longer than the 21- or 28-day intervals suggested by drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna.
Dr. Rakowski points to the consistently-higher rates of hospitalization and death for people above the age of 80 due to COVID-19, who remain particularly vulnerable to the virus after the first dose of vaccine.
“We know that they don’t mount the same immune response in terms of the amount of antibody production, and they probably have a greater decay in their antibody production,” Dr. Rakowski said.
More than 90 per cent of deaths that have occurred among partially-vaccinated people are in older adults, said Sinai Health geriatrician Dr. Nathan Stall.
Still, he said, the incoming levels of Pfizer supply should make it possible to prioritize elderly patients for second doses while still immunizing younger people.
“I don’t think we necessarily need to be thinking about out as an ‘either-or,’” he said.
“Now that the supply has changed, we need to change our course and nuance our strategy a bit, and that’s circling back and making sure that we [fully] vaccinate our older adults.”
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, the provincial Ministry of Health said “as we continue to receive more vaccines from the federal government, we may eventually be able to shorten the interval for all Ontarians.”
The province confirmed Thursday that 12 to 17-year-olds will be eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccination beginning May 31.