Canada has revised an earlier recommendation and has now expanded the roll out of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in the country. It had earlier said that it would not be used for seniors. Many countries have recently paused its use after the appearance of blood clots in some of those who were vaccinated using this particular coronavirus vaccine.
On Tuesday, a Canadian expert advisory panel updated its recommendations on this coronavirus vaccine to include eligibility for people above 65. It had cited real world evidence from the United Kingdom. The AstraZeneca vaccine seems to have worked well in most cases, despite there being few clinical trials in the age group above 65.
Canada says that its public health officials are observing the situation in Europe. They are waiting for additional information from its regulators. They say that there is no evidence to show that the risks of taking the vaccine are higher than its benefits.
Marc Berthiaume, a director at Health Canada spoke at a technical briefing in Ottawa, on Tuesday. He said that the number of thromboembolic (blood clots) adverse events were lower than the rates that had been expected in the population that had been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine according to the information reviewed by Health Canada.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommendations that vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which are mRNA vaccines should be used as a priority for vulnerable Canadians.
The statement on Tuesday from the NACI said that all available vaccines in Canada were safe but it recommends that “initial doses of mRNA vaccines should be prioritized for those at highest risk of severe illness and death and highest risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
The World Health Organization and Europe’s medicines regulator say that the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. WHO has also publicly stated that its benefits outweigh its risks? However, the sceptics are growing especially in Western Europe. France, Spain, Germany and Italy and some other countries have already paused the vaccine shots despite new waves of the coronavirus spreading across their countries.