AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Augstein

AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Augstein

Canadian doctors say lowering age cutoff for AstraZeneca vaccine makes sense as cases surge

Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network, said she would also support dropping the age limit

Doctors say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered to Canadians in a wider age range as COVID-19 infections soar in many parts of the country.

Provinces limited eligibility for that vaccine to those 55 and older after a small number of cases of an unusual and serious blood-clotting condition appeared in younger people — mostly women — who had received a shot.

The odds of someone getting the syndrome — dubbed vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia — has been estimated at between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000.

By comparison, about one in four people hospitalized with COVID-19 will experience a blood clot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted this week.

“Certainly based on risks, most people are much better off with a vaccine,” said Dr. Daniel Gregson, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“You can certainly drop it easily to 45, if not 35.”

Gregson, who specializes in infectious diseases and medical microbiology, said uncertainty has been planted in peoples’ minds about getting AstraZeneca, but they do things that are just as risky on a daily basis without a second thought.

Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network, said she would also support dropping the age limit, so long as no other worrying side-effects arise and recipients are aware of the risk, however small.

“I think it’s an important strategy we need to consider,” said Hota, also an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto.

“The case counts are going up too fast and they’re going to a point where it’s hitting the hospitals in a way that we’ve not experienced before, ever.”

Hota suggested one approach could be offering the shot to younger men, since the rare side-effect seems to be more prevalent in women.

Health Canada has deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has not yet changed its recommendation that the shot only be offered to those 55 and up, but the decision ultimately rests with provinces.

In Quebec, where AstraZeneca is available to those between the ages of 55 and 79, Health Minister Christian Dube said provincial public health authorities were considering whether to expand access.

Alberta is also considering a change, Hinshaw said.

“I also know that some who are younger than 55 are interested in getting the protection that this vaccine offers,” she said Thursday.

“Given the Health Canada assessment, we will be discussing this question with our Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization this week to get their perspective.”

In the meantime, Hinshaw is urging anyone who is already eligible to get their AstraZeneca dose without delay.

Walk-in vaccinations are available at 26 pharmacies in Calgary and Edmonton and Alberta Health Services is opening walk-in vaccination clinics this weekend in both cities.

“While not getting vaccinated may feel like a way to protect your health by avoiding the rare risk of a blood clot following vaccine, waiting can actually increase your risk of getting sick, or worse,” Hinshaw said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

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

Just Posted

A boat caught on fire this morning (May 11) in Port Hardy. (Adam Harding/Port Hardy Fire Rescue Facebook photo)
Fishing boat catches fire in Port Hardy, owner’s quick thinking puts out flames

The incident is a good reminder to always have a working fire extinguisher onboard your boat

School District 85 logo
Fort Rupert Elementary School gets funding from MusiCounts

The $1 million investment will support 95 schools

Agree or disagree with North Island Rising? Write a letter to the editor at editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish it online and in print.
McQuarrie: Budget meeting drama caused by unruly councillor

It was an amazing and unexpected response to what should have been… Continue reading

The medical clinic building in Port McNeill. (Bill McQuarrie photo)
Medical clinic gives update on health care in Port McNeill

The town appears to be ‘closer to a new and sustainable medical model for our town’

New electric buses are coming to school districts. (Submitted photo)
New electric school buses will drive North Island forward

Travel on electric school buses is smoother, quieter, and healthier than traditional diesel buses

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read