Many provinces have been lowering the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to as young as 40.
Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for use in Canada for people 18 and over under an interim order on Feb. 26, 2021.
But a month later, on March 29, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that provinces pause the use of the vaccine in those under the age of 55 due to safety concerns. That was after reports of rare cases of blood clots in some patients in Europe, mostly younger women.
Now CBC News has obtained documents that show NACI will recommend expanding the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford to younger age groups under specific conditions when it releases its new guidelines.
According to the documents, NACI will recommend the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine be used “in people 50 years of age and older where COVID-19 activity is high and for those 40 years of age and older in areas where COVID-19 activity is very high.”
NACI does not recommend offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in areas with very low, low or moderate COVID-19 activity.
Here’s a look at the current rules, recommendations and age cut-offs across the country.
Remind me — which vaccine is this?
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine against COVID-19 is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine. Unlike Moderna’s and Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines, it doesn’t need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, and it can be easily administered in pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Besides the AstraZeneca brand manufactured by the company itself, the vaccine also comes in a version known as Covishield, made by the Serum Institute of India.
What are the provinces now recommending for its use?
Many provinces suspended AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccinations for those under 55 after NACI’s recommendations were made at the end of March.
However, in April, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations hit record levels in provinces such as Ontario, pharmacists and doctors began pushing to expand eligibility. They said some doses were going unused due to the age restrictions and that the benefits outweighed the risks, even in younger age groups.
WATCH | Ontario expands AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility:
On April 18, federal Health Minister Patty Hadju told reporters that in fact, provinces and territories are free to use the vaccine on any population over 18. That’s because NACI’s recommendation is only a recommendation and doesn’t override the conditions of the vaccine’s approval.
Who can get the vaccine in each province?
As of April 19, here is what the rules are in provinces across Canada:
Up until April 19, only those age 55 and over were able to get the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in B.C. But the province now says it will begin to offer it to people aged 40 and over through pharmacies and, in some hard-hit areas, at special clinics.
People born in 1981 or earlier (turning 40 this year and older) will be able to book the vaccine starting Tuesday, April 20, Premier Jason Kenney said in a Tweet on April 18. He said that was based on advice from the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Bookings will be accepted starting at 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday via the province’s online booking system or by calling 811. Walk-ins are also available, Kenney said in a subsequent tweet.
Currently, only those age 55 or older can get the vaccine in Saskatchewan. However, on April 19, Premier Scott Moe said on Twitter that the province is “actively reviewing” lowering the eligibility age to residents aged 40+ following Health Canada guidance and decisions by Alberta and Ontario.
People aged 40 and older can get the vaccine from a doctor or pharmacist, the province announced on April 19. No health preconditions are required to qualify. Previously, only those age 65 and older or those aged 55 to 64 in two priority groups based on vulnerabilities to COVID-19 could get the vaccine.
People turning age 40 and older in 2021 with a valid Ontario (OHIP) health card will be offered the shot at pharmacies and primary care settings such as doctors’ offices starting Tuesday, April 20, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced on April 18.
The province will be lowering the age limit for the vaccine from 55, Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said Monday, but he did not specify what the new age limit will be.
People aged 55 and up are eligible for the vaccine.
The province recommends the vaccine for those 55 to 64 years of age.
Those 55 and older can get the vaccine at pharmacies.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Those 55 to 64 can get the vaccine.
Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut
None of the territories will be receiving any AstraZeneca vaccines. Northern residents will be vaccinated with Moderna’s vaccine.
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