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

The Cowichan Valley Arts Council is offering courses in drawing May through August 2021. (Submitted)
A&E column: Art is everywhere in the Cowichan Valley

What’s going in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies, a tool that chairman Aaron Stone says will improve communications. (File photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

FILE PHOTO
Editorial: Time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in

They’re just not quite sure they want to get a vaccine — yet

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

Most Read