The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has updated its guidelines for the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and recommended it be given to those 65 years and older.
On Tuesday, the NACI said it is changing its position due to “real-world data from the United Kingdom who has been administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people 65 years of age and older.”
“This evidence demonstrates that the vaccine is safe and effective in older adults, particularly against severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization.”
Earlier this month, NACI stopped short of recommending the adenoviral vector vaccine for those 65 and over “due to limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group at this time.
In clinical trials, the AstraZeneca shot has proven to be 62 per cent effective in those between the ages of 18 and 64.
When Health Canada approved the vaccine, the agency stated that while clinical trial data was limited for people over the age of 65, blood tests showed seniors did produce COVID-19 antibodies from the vaccine. Also “real world evidence and post-market experience” in places the vaccine is already in use show “a potential benefit and no safety concerns” with giving the vaccine to seniors.
The safety of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine came under scrutiny last week following reports out of Europe that some recipients developed blood clots following vaccination. Over a dozen countries have paused use of the vaccine pending further investigation.
Health Canada said on Friday that none of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine batches under investigation in Europe have been shipped to the country. Canada’s doses are coming from the Serum Institute of India, while Europe is getting its doses from facilities there.
The agency added that no adverse events related to the AstraZeneca vaccine have been reported in Canada to date.
Meanwhile, provinces across the country have begun vaccinating those between the ages to 60 to 64 with the vaccine.
In Ontario, 160 Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Kingston have vaccinated more than 28,000 Ontarians to date.
The changing guidelines come as fears of a third wave of the pandemic are escalating in the country’s hot zones.
On Monday, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said the province was now experiencing a third wave, with new data showing variants of concern (VOC) are steeply rising and the number of patients in ICUs is also trending upward.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams both said it is too early to tell whether the city or the province are seeing a third wave just yet.
With files from The Canadian Press