OTTAWA — Ontario will start offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those 40 and over starting on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott says the shot will be offered at pharmacies and “primary care settings.”
Alexandra Hilkene says the province has made the call based on “current supply” of the vaccine.
The AstraZeneca shot is currently only offered to those aged 55 and older in Ontario, in line with the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI).
But federal health minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday that Health Canada has licensed it for use in anyone over the age of 18 and there is nothing stopping the province of Ontario – or any province for that matter – from changing its age guidelines for the vaccine.
“NACI provides advice to provinces and territories,” Hajdu told a news conference Sunday. “They can adjust their use for AstraZeneca as per their desire and the advice from their own public health authorities and medical expertise.”
“NACI continues to review the advice on AstraZeneca use and will have updated guidance in the very near future,” Hajdu added.
And while Ontario Premier Doug Ford points the finger at a lack of vaccine supply, the head of the association that represents the province’s hospitals argued that AstraZeneca shots were sitting in pharmacy freezers.
Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, tweeted that there is “’surplus supply at risk of expiring,” and the government must act on it.
Many Ontario physicians took to social media to express their frustration with the province’s lack of action on the issue.
“Pharmacies, listen up. DO NOT WASTE A SINGLE DOSE OF THE AZ VACCINE. Explain the risk and obtain informed consent to administer to people under age 55,” Dr. Brian Goldman said in a tweet Sunday.
Steven Del Duca, who heads up the Liberal Party in the province, agreed.
“Doug Ford must release the AstraZeneca vaccine from pharmacy freezers and get it into the arms of anyone over 18 in a hot spot,” he tweeted Sunday. “(Patty Hajdu) was clear: there is nothing stopping him from getting shots into arms.”
Some have been hesitant to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a very rare blood clotting condition, which has thus far affected two Canadians.
More than 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in this country.
The global frequency of the blood clot disorder, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, has been estimated at about one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses.
The risk of developing blood clots due to COVID-19 is much higher, and experts say people should accept the first vaccine they’re offered.