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AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine now recommended for all adults

Last Updated Mar 16, 2021 at 8:45 am PDT

A nurse holds a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine before administering it to a tourist resort employee north of Port Louis, Mauritius, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2021. (Sumeet Mudhoo/L'express Maurice via AP)

NACI changes its recommendation for use of AstraZeneca vaccine, recommending it be given to those 65 years and older

Updated recommendation around AstraZeneca vaccine comes amid concerns in Europe over blood clots

NACI says it is monitoring situation; Health Canada has said there's no evidence to support link between shot, clots

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has changed its guidelines for the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, now recommending it be given to those 65 years and older.

Earlier this month, the committee stopped short of recommending the adenoviral vector vaccine for those in that age group “due to limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group at this time.”

The change in position comes after a lot of confusion around the Astra Zeneca shot. Health Canada approved it for all adults 18 and older, but NACI had said in its first recommendation in early March that “there was only one real-world effectiveness study that had been issued” and that that study “was not deemed of sufficient quality to modify policy.”

Since that time, NACI says two other real-world effectiveness studies have been considered, guiding this latest change in recommendation.

“While all available vaccines in Canada are safe and effective, NACI still recommends that in the context of limited vaccine supply, initial doses of mRNA vaccines should be prioritized for those at highest risk of severe illness and death, and highest risk of exposure because we have a differential efficacy estimate between the mRNA vaccines and the AstraZeneca vaccine from the clinical trials,” explained Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chair of NACI.

The safety of the AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine came under scrutiny last week following reports out of Europe that some recipients developed blood clots following inoculation. Over a dozen countries have paused use of the vaccine pending further investigation.

Health officials in Canada have repeatedly said there’s no scientific evidence to support the link between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and potential clots. Health Canada has also said the batches we have in this country are not under investigation.

Quach-Thanh says NACI will continue monitoring the situation.

“And we will then let Health Canada discuss that, if ever, but that, of course, is part of the risk-benefit analysis that NACI’s doing and depending on what happens in Europe, we will revise the recommendation as needed,” she said.

The EU medicines regulator said on Tuesday it’s “firmly convinced” that the benefit of AstraZeneca’s shot outweighs its risks but that its eveluation is ongoing.