New age recommendations for AstraZeneca vaccine
The AstraZeneca vaccine is considered safe for Canadian seniors, but it is not expected to make a significant difference to Alberta’s vaccine rollout. (File photo)
CALGARY -- New data has led to new advice about AstraZeneca’s vaccines being safe for Canadian seniors, but it is not expected to make a significant difference to Alberta’s vaccine rollout.
Since the AstraZeneca vaccine's initial approval for use in this country last month, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) said it used three real-world studies to justify expanding its advice to include those 65 and older.
But at a news conference this week, Alberta’s top doctor suggested that it wouldn’t change vaccination plans much.
“We'll be looking at who would be able to receive vaccine or who wouldn't already have had it offered to them and take that into account,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday.
“Ultimately the change in recommendations really shouldn't impact our program significantly because as I've said, everyone 65 and over is already eligible to receive a vaccine within the next several weeks.”
More than 20 countries have paused AstraZeneca inoculations as a precaution after reports of blood clots in a European batch. The European Union's drug regulator insists the vaccine is safe and urges governments not to stop using it while the pandemic is still taking thousands of lives each day.
“At present there is no indication vaccination has caused these conditions,” said Emer Cooke the European Medicines Agency executive director.
“The number of thromboembolic events overall in the vaccinated people seems not to be higher than those seen in the general population.”
Canada’s AstraZeneca supply comes from a different batch, out of India and the country's public health agency says safety issues have not been identified here.
“The benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks,” said federal chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
“If it was me standing in line for the AstraZeneca vaccine I would still get it,” said Calgary emergency room physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj.
“I think that it was always known that it was going to be safe in people over 65, the question was, is it going to be effective? And it sounds with the real-world evidence that yes, it is.”
Alberta’s top doctor says there is evidence it also protects against a major variant of concern.
“The Pfizer and Astrazeneca are effective against the b117 variant of concerns that is most common in Alberta,” said Hinshaw at a press conference on Tuesday.
The European Medicines Agency is investigating each of its blood clot cases and is expected to release results on Thursday.
Canada is scheduled to receive 23.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the first 500,000 doses already being administered across the country.
With files from Heather Butts and Rachel Aiello