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

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

Just Posted

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

FILE PHOTO
Editorial: Time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in

They’re just not quite sure they want to get a vaccine — yet

Brian Thatcher, owner of Cowichan Bay’s Pacific Industrial & Marine, is disappointed the province didn’t provide funding for a proposal from PIM, in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes, to remove derelict boats from local waters. (File photo)
Application for funding to remove derelict vessels in Cowichan area fails

Province announced $4.5 million for new program on April 28

Cowichan Valley Capitals forward Sean Ramsay comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards during a game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on May 1, 2021. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Three wins in a row for Cowichan Capitals

BCHL team enjoying best stretch of the season

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,000 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

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

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found unresponsive at Saanich jail

Man was in Victoria police custody the day before being found

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Most Read