NACI now recommends the vaccine be used in people 30 years of age and older, “if the individual does not wish to wait for an mRNA vaccine and the benefits outweigh the risks,” said Shelley Deeks, NACI’s co-chair.
Previously, NACI’s guidance said the shot should only be used on those aged 55 and older.
Deeks said NACI “weighs the benefits” of the vaccine against the risks associated with COVID-19 infection. She said data from Europe and Health Canada’s previous safety assessment were considered in making the new recommendation.
“NACI continues to analyze the data s it becomes available and continues to monitor the data,” she said.
This week, several provinces lowered their minimum wage requirement for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as the virus continues to proliferate in their jurisdictions.
As of Tuesday, those aged 40 and older in Ontario and Alberta can get the shot. British Columbia and Manitoba also dropped the age requirement to 40 as of Monday. As of Wednesday in Quebec, those 45 and over are eligible for the shot. Saskatchewan has also lowered its age eligibility to 40.
The reasons for the decisions by the provinces largely line up — opening the eligibility means more shots in people’s arms as infections rise and, based on growing data, the benefits of getting the vaccine still largely outweigh any risks.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu reiterated on April 18 that provinces and territories are, in fact, free to use the vaccine on anyone over 18 — which has been Health Canada’s official guidance since it approved AstraZeneca in February.
Health Canada’s guidance remains unchanged. NACI’s guidance — which is only a recommendation — does not override the conditions of the vaccine’s approval.
Up until now, the NACI guidelines stood at 55+. That guidance was initially set in March as Canada and other countries investigated possible links to rare blood clots reported in a small percentage of AstraZeneca recipients.
Those events continue to be a very rare side effect of the vaccine. Canada has reported three cases out of more than 700,000 doses administered, the latest reported in New Brunswick.
Though there is enough evidence to say the vaccine may cause very rare blood clots, Health Canada says the shot is still extremely safe, very effective and will remain on the Canadian market. Health Canada updated the label on the AstraZeneca and Covishield vaccines in March to add information about the very rare reports of blood clots.
The U.K. regulator recently said, like Health Canada, that the vaccine remained safe for everyone, but the British version of NACI recommended it not be given to people under 30, who have the lowest risk for severe illness from COVID.
— with files from the Canadian Press