AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP

National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

A national panel of vaccine experts says provinces should not use the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on seniors, opening the door for provinces to start vaccinating younger populations with the newly authorized vaccine much earlier than expected.

But similar advice initially issued in Europe began to be revisited Monday, with France overturning its earlier decision against using it on seniors, and Germany in the midst of reconsidering it.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was authorized for use Friday on all adults, including seniors, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is concerned there is limited data on how well the vaccine will work in older populations.

There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe for use, but the NACI panel said in its recommendations the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred for people 65 years old and above “due to suggested superior efficacy.”

NACI says Oxford-AstraZeneca should be offered to people under 65 as long as the benefits of getting a good vaccine earlier outweigh any limitations the vaccine may have in terms of effectiveness.

Individuals should be made aware of those limitations and how long they might otherwise wait for an mRNA vaccine, the advice says.

The panel’s advice helps provincial governments determine how best to use the vaccines available to them, but provinces can make their own calls about what to do.

It will now be up to provinces to determine if they open up vaccinations with Oxford-AstraZeneca to individuals under the age of 65.

Until now, provinces have not anticipated expanding the vaccination campaign to include people younger than that for several more months, most in what they call Phase 2 or even Phase 3, of their vaccine program.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the provincial government has decided to follow NACI’s advice and not give Oxford-AstraZeneca to anyone over the age of 65.

“How that’s going to change the administration of those who are in Phase 2 is still to be determined,” he said. “We’ll be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon.”

The NACI advice follows similar plans in many European countries. The European Medicines Agency said the vaccine could be used on all adults, but a number of countries decided not to use it for seniors because of the limited clinical data.

However, France reversed course Monday, with French Health Minister Olivier Véran saying Oxford-AstraZeneca was, along with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, remarkably effective against COVID-19.

A study released last week by Public Health Scotland, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been in use since Dec. 30, found COVID-19-related hospital admissions among seniors fell 94 per cent after getting the vaccine.

Nearly 500,000 people in the study had received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, most of them over the age of 80.

When vaccines are tested in clinical trials, thousands of participants get the vaccine and a similar number receive a placebo. The vaccine maker then waits until a minimum number of people are infected with COVID-19, and compares how many of those infected got the vaccine and how many did not.

Not enough seniors were among the group who did get infected with COVID-19 to be useful to draw conclusions in the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial. However, data on blood samples showed seniors given the vaccine did develop the antibodies to COVID-19 in similar levels to younger individuals.

Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna both had more substantial data for older participants in the clinical trials.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reported about 95 per cent effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 overall, while Oxford-AstraZeneca reported its vaccine to be about 62 per cent effective.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada overseeing the regulatory review, said Health Canada’s authorization is not out of step with the NACI recommendations.

Sharma said Health Canada noted the concerns about clinical data but authorized the vaccine for use because the data showed the vaccine to be both safe and effective in all adults.

“I agree with the recommendation,” she said Monday in an interview with The Canadian Press.

She said the preference is for those most vulnerable to get the vaccines with the best data available, but for those who are less vulnerable, getting this vaccine now could provide a significant benefit to them and to reducing overall COVID-19 caseloads.

READ MORE: Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vandals burned a hole in the platform at the top of the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom early on the morning of Thursday, April 22. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson closes Somenos Marsh viewing platform

Fletcher estimates the damage at more than $5,000.

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
BCCDC says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most Island Health areas

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

More sleeping cabins for the homeless in the Cowichan Valley could soon be put in place if a $2.5-million grant application to the UBCM Strengthening Communities’ Services funding program is successful. (File photo)
Funding sought to expand homeless initiatives in Cowichan Valley

$2.5-million grant would see more sleeping cabins and outreach projects

The old Stanley Gordon school in Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)
Editorial: Old school properties represent potential for our areas

There are opportunities, often sitting right in the middle of our small communities.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read