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

Email letters to the editor to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish online and in print.
LETTER: Port McNeill councillor responds to May 12 North Island Rising column

‘council raised residential taxes for no reason and I stand by that statement’

The seasonal Search and Rescue program will run between May to September. ( File photo/Canadian Coast Guard)
Coast Guard Inshore Rescue Program starting up next week

Teams have protocols in place to ensure COVID-19 safety

Shearwater is located in the Great Bear Rainforest on the West Coast of B.C. (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association photo)
Heiltsuk Nation buys historic Shearwater Resort and Marina

Chief Marilyn Slett said Heiltsuk Nation has always valued its relationship with the company

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

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

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read