What is the most important thing in healthcare? The patient.
As health professionals, we talk a lot about “Patient focussed Healthcare” but I think we have all missed the boat when it comes to the vaccine program in this country.
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines to the point that it has almost reached “State of Origin” status on social media.
However, this should come as no surprise to us because two out of every three of all Australians have a poor understanding of their medicines, and almost 7 out of every 10 people get their health information from the internet, which can make it confusing for everyone!
So, it is no surprise that when bad publicity from very rare side effects such as blood clotting with the Astra Zeneca vaccine runs around the media circles, we have a problem with the safety and positive benefits of COVID-19 vaccines in general.
To make matters worse, the guidelines for the vaccines have changed in a matter of weeks with the possible end of Astra Zeneca vaccines by October, medical advice recommending only Pfizer for under 60’s (up from under 50’s) and now Astra Zeneca being available for people under 40, albeit with an indemnity clause for doctors from the government?
So, how do we fix this?
There is some good evidence (Com-COV study, UK) overseas that “mixing and matching” both Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines (people 50 years or older) works just as well and in some cases better, as compared to getting two doses of the same vaccine.
Of course, side effects (such as fever, headache, joint and muscle pain) still occur but these were mostly mild, limited to about 48 hours only, and eased by taking paracetamol shortly after the vaccine.
It is important to realise that the vaccines to stop COVID-19 work in different ways and can bring a stronger response from our immune system when used in combination.
At this stage, using two of the same vaccines is preferred but some countries (like Canada) are allowing “mix and match” for first and second doses, especially where the patient or doctor are unsure about which vaccine was used the first time.
There is another reason why a “mix and match” vaccine schedule might be necessary in Australia – it may provide more choice for the patient and might get more people on board with the vaccine program, and that can only be a good thing.
To see a short video on how COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the link below:
Emmanuel Pippos, Consultant Pharmacist
Information Source: COVAX GROUP
Booster and Mix & Match COVID-19 Vaccine Strategies – Planning Ahead in an Environment of Increasing Complexity, 3rd June 2021