The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in Canada for persons 18 years of age or over. Health Canada’s vaccine approval process is a rigorous one that looks at all available evidence on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Millions of doses of the vaccine have been administered around the world and Health Canada continues to monitor new developments.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is the expert body that makes recommendations to governments on who should receive vaccines and when, based on the most current scientific evidence, considerations around vaccine supply, as well as an understanding of the severity of the pandemic. The decisions are being made with the information available and will change over time should new evidence come to light, the pandemic situation change or there be issues with supply.
The current NACI recommendation is that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to individuals 30 years of age and older. The recommendations have been changing over time, and it is important to understand why. In recent months, we have learned that there is a very small risk of a rare condition that causes blood clots, called Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) or Vaccine-Induced Prothrombic Immune Thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), in people who have received the vaccine. Initial studies out of Europe indicated that it is was more prevalent in people under 55 years of age. Initially, out of an abundance of caution and given that the Canadian government expects to have an adequate supply of other vaccines (e.g., Pfizer, Moderna) for people under 55 years of age, NACI recommended that only people aged 55 years and older should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
More recently, as NACI continued to look at all available and emerging evidence, the committee advised that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to individuals 30 years of age and older. Determining who should get the vaccine involves a careful and thorough risk/benefit analysis. While there is a very small risk of blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, the risk of blood clots as a complication of COVID infection is significantly higher ― up to ten times higher as noted in recent research.
As we see COVID cases and hospitalizations increasing exponentially in some jurisdictions, the Government of Canada highlighted how the vaccine is approved for persons 18 years of age and over. With that in mind, several provinces have expanded the age range currently eligible for the vaccine. Please consult your provincial/territorial guidelines for eligibility.