A nurse holds vials of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 during a vaccination campaign at WiZink indoor arena in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Manu Fernandez

A nurse holds vials of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 during a vaccination campaign at WiZink indoor arena in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Manu Fernandez

Several provinces lower age eligibility for AstraZeneca: at look at the vaccine

Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta are decreasing the age range from the recommended 55+ NACI set

Several provinces are lowering their minimum age requirement for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, allowing those 40-and-older to receive the jab as unruly spread of COVID-19 continues in their jurisdictions.

Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta are decreasing the age range from the recommended 55+ that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization set last month.

The NACI guidelines came about as Canada and other countries investigated possible links to rare instances of blood clots seen in a small minority of AstraZeneca recipients.

Those events continue to be an exceedingly rare side effect of the vaccine, with Canada reporting twocases out of more than 700,000 doses administered.

Here’s what we know about the AstraZeneca vaccine:

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO GET IT?

As of Tuesday, people 40 years of age and older will be able to get the AstraZeneca jab in Ontario and Alberta. Manitoba said Monday that it, too, was offering the vaccine to those over age 40.

Health Canada had allowed the use of the vaccine for those 18 and up when it approved AstraZeneca in February, an authorization that has not changed.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a press conference Sunday that provinces and territories were “free to use AstraZeneca in any aged population over 18.”

NACI had not updated its minimum age guidance for AstraZeneca as of Monday morning.

Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta’s move to a lower age range comes amid mounting pressure to expand eligibility as a third wave devastates parts of the country.

Alberta had the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Sunday, while Ontario had reported an average of more than 4,300 new daily cases over the past week.

Concern around the rare clotting events has led to some hesitancy around AstraZeneca, with many eligible residents opting to wait for a jab from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna instead. As the COVID situation worsens in parts of the country, however, experts advise against waiting for another vaccine.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BLOOD CLOT ISSUE?

The European Medicines Agency said earlier this month it found a possible link to very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low platelet counts in AstraZeneca recipients, usually happening within two weeks of getting the shot.

The global frequency of the blood clot disorder, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia or VITT, has been estimated at about one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses.

Data published in the online journal Science last week said there were at least 222 suspected cases reported in Europe — out of 34 million people who received their first dose. More than 30 people have died.

Experts say the risk of developing blood clots due to COVID-19 is much higher, and they encouragepeople to accept the first vaccine they’re offered.

The EMA says symptoms to watch for include: shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling in the leg, persistent abdominal pain, persistent headaches and blurred vision or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site. The clotting issue has been treatable when caught early.

VIDEO: ‘Extremely, extremely rare’ blood clots ‘may be linked’ to AstraZeneca, Health Canada says

HOW EFFECTIVE IS ASTRAZENECA IN PREVENTING COVID INFECTIONS?

Data from clinical trials showed AstraZeneca was 62 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, but it prevented death and hospitalization in all participants who got the virus after receiving the vaccine.

Efficacy was a major talking point when AstraZeneca was first approved, with some comparing it to the 95 per cent efficacy shown in vaccine trials from Pfizer and Moderna.

But experts have stressed that all the authorized vaccines offer excellent protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

Real-world data may also suggest the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine increases over a longer time interval between the first and second shot. Clinical trials used a four-week span between doses but some countries have been delaying second doses by several weeks. In Canada, many provinces have opted to delay the second dose by four months.

HOW DOES THE VACCINE WORK?

All of the approved COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the spike protein that coats the outer surface of the coronavirus.

AstraZeneca — a non-replicating viral vector vaccine — uses a harmless version of a cold virus as a vessel to give our cells the instructions they need to make the coronavirus’s spike protein.

The immune system recognizes the protein and makes antibodies, which then allow us to fend off attack if exposed in the future.

Experts say it takes a couple of weeks for the body to build up some level of immunity with any of the vaccines.

Some may see outward signs of an immediate immune response to the inoculation — the body’s way of preparing for what it perceives as an attack by the virus. This can cause side effects usually seen with other vaccines, including pain at the injection site, redness, swelling and even fever, but experts say that means the vaccine is working.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO THIS VACCINE?

The AstraZeneca vaccine can be shipped and stored at regular refrigerator temperature, unlike those by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need colder storage temperatures.

That’s why they’ve been primarily used in pharmacies across the country, rather than large vaccine clinics.

From a global vaccination standpoint, the low cost of AstraZeneca’s vaccine — about US$4 per dose — gives it another advantage. AstraZeneca, which says it aims to manufacture up to three billion doses in 2021, has pledged to make their product available at cost around the world until at least July.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) handed out fines to two anglers on Shuswap Lake who were both casting more than one line, in violation of provincial regulations, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (COS photo)
Conservation officers snag Shuswap anglers for unlawful fishing

Two anglers were given $150 fines for casting two lines at once, against provincial regulations

The future of the Okanagan Lake watershed land use will be subject of a new study supported by a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation. (Contributed)
Grant to help develop Okanagan Lake protection strategy

Study receives $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

As they carry out a FireSmart assessment in Salmon Arm, firefighters Carmen Guidos and Steve St. Denis show one of the easy-to-rectify fire hazards that can exist for unsuspecting residents. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Column: Lessons on welcoming a wildfire into your home

The View From Here by Martha Wickett

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Lynda Saundry, born 1961, is charged with the murder of North Okanagan resident Barry Jones in July 2020. Saundry will appear in Vernon court May 17, 2021, to fix a date for a preliminary inquiry. (Facebook public photo)
North Okanagan murder suspect to be tried by judge and jury

Lynda Saundry is charged with the first-degree murder of Barry Jones in July 2020

Vernon Search and Rescue’s Legacy vessel is returning to Okanagan Lake for boating season, the society said Friday, May 14, 2021. (VSAR photo)
Vernon Search and Rescue vessel returns to Okanagan Lake

VSAR’s Legacy is back with a fresh coat of paint and some other upgrades

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read