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National panel advises provinces not to use AstraZeneca vaccine on seniors 65-and-older

Last Updated Mar 1, 2021 at 7:35 pm EDT

Vials of the AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine at the Royal Health and Wellbeing Centre in Oldham, U.K., on Jan. 21, 2021. Photographer: Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A national panel of vaccine experts says provinces should not use AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors.

The vaccine was authorized for use Friday on all adults, including seniors, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is concerned there is limited data on how well the vaccine will work in older populations.

While our official regulator has approved this COVID-19 shot for all adults above the age of 18, the NACI says there is insufficient evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine for people 65 and older.

“A non-replicating viral vector vaccine is authorized for use in Canada for individuals 18 years of age and older (AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine),” reads the government of Canada’s website.

“NACI does not recommend the use of this vaccine in individuals 65 years of age and older due to limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group at this time.”

There are no concerns that the vaccine is not safe for use.

NACI says the two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should be prioritized for Canadians over 65, while AstraZeneca should be offered to people under 65.

While all three vaccines are 100 percent effective against death and hospitalization as a result of COVID-19, clinical trials suggested mRNA vaccines were more effective at preventing COVID-19 infections.

In a recent analysis in England, that study showed a single shot of either Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine reduces the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 80 percent. 

In Scotland, the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of COVID-19 related hospitalization by 94 percent after the first of two doses.

RELATED: ‘It’s easier to store, easier to administer’ – Ontario health expert confident J&J vaccine will be approved

The panel’s advice helps provincial governments determine how best to use the vaccines available to them but provinces can make their own calls about what to do.

Canada has secured more than 20-million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Monday, a top infectious disease expert expressed optimism about the potential of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine – a fourth treatment –  being approved in Canada.

Doctor Isaac Bogoch said it could be a gamechanger in our vaccination efforts.

This comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Saturday.

It is the first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S., and is one that health officials say “checks nearly all the boxes.”

The J&J vaccine is authorized for people ages 18 and older.

Some residents in York Region can also begin booking appointments for COVID-19 vaccines this week.

As of 8 a.m. Monday morning, residents over the age of 80 in the region are able to schedule an appointment by going to the York Region website.

With files from 680 NEWS Parliament Hill reporter Cormac Mac Sweeney and The Canadian Press

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