Alberta seniors won't receive AstraZeneca vaccine following new recommendations
CALGARY -- Albertans aged 65 or older will not receive the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine following new advice from a national advisory committee on who should and shouldn’t get the shot.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) in Canada is not recommending the use of the vaccine in people 65 or older due to "the insufficiency of evidence of efficacy in this age group at this time."
Health Canada approved the two-dose vaccine for anyone 18 years or older last Friday and stresses there is no safety concerns for seniors. However, it's ultimately up to the provinces and territories to determine which vaccine is given and to whom.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says Alberta will follow the advice from NACI, along with the government’s own vaccine advisory committee and Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
"Now how that's going to change the administration of those who are in phase two is still to be determined. We will be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon," said Shandro.
Alberta is currently in phase one of its vaccine rollout and started immunizing all seniors in their 75th year or older last week.
The second phase is set to run from April to September and includes four different groups. Group A is everyone 65 to 74 years old no matter where they live, Indigenous people 50 years and older, and staff and residents of licensed supportive living that weren’t included in phase one.
Each phase is dependent on the vaccine supply and it's yet to be seen if there will be changes to Alberta's second phase as a result of the new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Vanessa Meier-Stephenson says this recommendation isn’t a question about the vaccine’s safety, but rather science playing out in real time.
“We have lots of safety data, which is really important. It's the efficacy data that we're now nitpicking over and trying to find what's the best one that's going to provide the best protection in each of our populations," she said.
"And if there's a suggestion that one vaccine may provide less protection in our elderly population or in the in our seniors, we want to we want to optimize that the best we can."
The vaccine is 62 per cent effective against preventing infection leading to hospitalizations while the Pfizer and Moderna shots report 95 per cent efficacy.
Dr. Meier-Stephenson says because more vaccines are becoming available we can be more selective on who gets what type but at the end of the day, they all provide protection.
“So, when a vaccine does become available to you or your friends and family and whatnot, the best vaccine is the one that you can get into your arm the quickest as the bottom line,” she said.
“It's just important to get some protection that your immune system can already start producing those antibodies that you need to protect you going forward in your in your daily life.”