Under 65? Your COVID-19 vaccination may be sooner than you expected
|Toronto Star 03 Mar 2021 at 06:37|
OTTAWA—Provinces have an “opportunity” to vaccinate younger people sooner with the recently approved AstraZeneca vaccine, based on advice from government-appointed experts and the looming expiration date on thousands of doses arriving this week, says Canada’s top public health officer.
Speaking Tuesday at the federal government’s weekly vaccine briefing, officials confirmed 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to arrive in Canada on Wednesday.
But 300,000 of those doses will expire on April 2 and — for now — the federal government’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending against their use for people over 65, citing limited data.
That presents an “opportunity” for provinces to use the shots for younger residents who might not have been called to receive their vaccines for months, said Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“One of the key ways to roll this vaccine out fast is in that younger population as a key option,” Tam said, pointing to racialized Canadians and other groups NACI recommended for priority access to shots.
“But it is up to the provinces and territories to implement how they’re going to use the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she added.
Tam also suggested the NACI recommendation against using AstraZeneca for seniors could change, citing fresh information from the use of the vaccine in other countries. France, for instance, reversed its decision not to give the shot to seniors on Monday, while Health Canada has already declared it safe and effective for all age groups.
“They will update,” Tam said, referring to the NACI recommendation for AstraZeneca.
At Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario will follow federal guidance and reserve AstraZeneca vaccinations for people under 65.
But she would not be specific on where it will be deployed or which portions of the population can expect to get injections as the province concentrates on shots for people over 80, and on health-care workers, essential caregivers to residents of nursing homes and some essential workers.
“We’re building AstraZeneca into the plan,” Elliott said, noting its easy storage requirements mean “it can be used very quickly in a number of places,” such as mass clinics and jails.
“It’s a very versatile vaccine.”
As of March 1, the province had administered 80 per cent of the 903,000 shots it had received from Ottawa so far, with a seven-day average of 19,320 shots given per day, according to the University of Toronto’s .
Health Canada approved use of the AstraZeneca shot last week, making it the third vaccine for COVID-19 to get the green light in Canada.
It is already providing a significant boost to Canada’s vaccine supply, after weeks of reduced shipments because of production issues at facilities in Europe where the federal government’s other two approved shots — made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — are manufactured.
On Tuesday, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand confirmed the first shipment of 500,000 AstraZeneca doses that Canada bought from the Serum Institute of India will arrive on Wednesday. Combined with the 444,600 Pfizer doses that were already slated for delivery this week, this marks the largest single-week shipment of vaccines to Canada since they were first approved in December.
Anand and Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, the head of logistics for Ottawa’s vaccine drive, said Canada remains on track to receive another two million doses from Pfizer and more than 1.3 million Moderna shots before the end of March, which will bring Canada’s total delivery to 6.5 million doses of the three approved vaccines for the first quarter of the year.
The government expects to receive another 101.4 million doses by the end of September, for a total 107.9 million vaccines — more than enough to give the recommended two doses to the entire Canadian population. And that total could increase as Health Canada reviews more vaccines for approval, including the Janssen vaccine approved in the United States over the weekend.