AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Augstein

AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Augstein

Canadian doctors say lowering age cutoff for AstraZeneca vaccine makes sense as cases surge

Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network, said she would also support dropping the age limit

Doctors say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered to Canadians in a wider age range as COVID-19 infections soar in many parts of the country.

Provinces limited eligibility for that vaccine to those 55 and older after a small number of cases of an unusual and serious blood-clotting condition appeared in younger people — mostly women — who had received a shot.

The odds of someone getting the syndrome — dubbed vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia — has been estimated at between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000.

By comparison, about one in four people hospitalized with COVID-19 will experience a blood clot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted this week.

“Certainly based on risks, most people are much better off with a vaccine,” said Dr. Daniel Gregson, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“You can certainly drop it easily to 45, if not 35.”

Gregson, who specializes in infectious diseases and medical microbiology, said uncertainty has been planted in peoples’ minds about getting AstraZeneca, but they do things that are just as risky on a daily basis without a second thought.

Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network, said she would also support dropping the age limit, so long as no other worrying side-effects arise and recipients are aware of the risk, however small.

“I think it’s an important strategy we need to consider,” said Hota, also an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto.

“The case counts are going up too fast and they’re going to a point where it’s hitting the hospitals in a way that we’ve not experienced before, ever.”

Hota suggested one approach could be offering the shot to younger men, since the rare side-effect seems to be more prevalent in women.

Health Canada has deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has not yet changed its recommendation that the shot only be offered to those 55 and up, but the decision ultimately rests with provinces.

In Quebec, where AstraZeneca is available to those between the ages of 55 and 79, Health Minister Christian Dube said provincial public health authorities were considering whether to expand access.

Alberta is also considering a change, Hinshaw said.

“I also know that some who are younger than 55 are interested in getting the protection that this vaccine offers,” she said Thursday.

“Given the Health Canada assessment, we will be discussing this question with our Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization this week to get their perspective.”

In the meantime, Hinshaw is urging anyone who is already eligible to get their AstraZeneca dose without delay.

Walk-in vaccinations are available at 26 pharmacies in Calgary and Edmonton and Alberta Health Services is opening walk-in vaccination clinics this weekend in both cities.

“While not getting vaccinated may feel like a way to protect your health by avoiding the rare risk of a blood clot following vaccine, waiting can actually increase your risk of getting sick, or worse,” Hinshaw said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Mothers are God’s gift to us.” Photo: Amy Shamblen/Unsplash
Happy Mother’s Day

Message from Shirley Racette of the Fruitvale Christian Fellowship

Caden Tart and Luke Geisbrecht host Scratch the Scripture. Photo: Submitted
Two West Kootenay teens launch faith podcast

Scratch the Scripture aims to answer teen’s questions about God

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read