People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Provinces are free to offer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults, Canada’s health minister said Sunday as calls mounted in at least one province hard hit by COVID-19 to lower the age restriction on the shot.

While the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has yet to release updated recommendations on the vaccine, Patty Hajdu said provincial officials are not beholden to the group’s current advice to only offer the shot to those 55 and older.

“NACI provides advice to provinces and territories,” Hajdu told a news conference Sunday. “They can adjust their use for AstraZeneca as per their desire and the advice from their own public health authorities and medical expertise.”

She noted that Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18.

“NACI continues to review the advice on AstraZeneca use and will have updated guidance in the very near future,” Hajdu added.

Her comments come as some provinces — particularly Ontario and Alberta — grapple with devastating third waves of COVID-19.

And while Ontario Premier Doug Ford points the finger at a lack of vaccine supply, the head of the association that represents the province’s hospitals argued that AstraZeneca shots were sitting in pharmacy freezers.

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, tweeted that there is “‘surplus supply at risk of expiring,” and the government must act on it.

Many Ontario physicians took to social media to express their frustration with the province’s lack of action on the issue.

“Pharmacies, listen up. DO NOT WASTE A SINGLE DOSE OF THE AZ VACCINE. Explain the risk and obtain informed consent to administer to people under age 55,” Dr. Brian Goldman said in a tweet Sunday.

Steven Del Duca, who heads up the Liberal party in the province, agreed.

“Doug Ford must release the AstraZeneca vaccine from pharmacy freezers and get it into the arms of anyone over 18 in a hot spot,” he tweeted Sunday. “(Patty Hajdu) was clear: there is nothing stopping him from getting shots into arms.”

A spokeswoman for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter, but the provincial government has previously said it will follow NACI’s recommendations on the shot.

The calls to lower the threshold for the AstraZeneca vaccine extended beyond Ontario’s borders.

“It sounds like Alberta is having trouble using its AstraZeneca. Lower the minimum age; Gen X can help!” Lisa Young, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, tweeted this week.

Some have been hesitant to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a very rare blood clotting condition, which has thus far affected two Canadians.

More than 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in this country.

The global frequency of the blood clot disorder, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, has been estimated at about one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses.

The risk of developing blood clots due to COVID-19 is much higher, and experts say people should accept the first vaccine they’re offered.

Meanwhile, the federal government announced Sunday that it was mobilizing its own resources and co-ordinating with lesser-hit provinces to send health-care workers and other support to help Ontario as it battles record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the Ontario government would respond to Ottawa’s offer.

Hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units continued to reach record heights in Ontario, which reported 4,250 new COVID-19 infections in the the last 24 hours.

Ontario announced a number of new restrictions to quell the skyrocketing numbers, but has faced pressure to roll back limits on outdoor activities, which critics have said will do little to stop the spread.

Meanwhile, data released by Canada’s chief public health officer shows that the average daily number of hospitalizations and deaths in the country jumped by more than 30 per cent between April 9 and 15 compared to the week before.

The latest national-level data found that an average of 3,428 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent seven-day reporting period, representing a 34 per cent increase over the week before.

An average of 41 people died each day during the same period, which is 38 per cent higher than the previous week.

Dr. Theresa Tam said cases, test positivity rates and intensive care admissions are all rising as Canada battles a wave of COVID-19 that is driven by more contagious variants.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported more than 1,300 new infections in the past 24 hours.

Prince Edward Island reported three new cases, while Nova Scotia logged seven and New Brunswick added 10.

Farther west, Manitoba recorded 170 new cases of the virus and one added death, while Saskatchewan counted 289 new cases and one death.

Alberta, which is currently dealing with the highest rate of COVID-19 per capita in Canada, reported 1,516 new cases of the virus on Sunday and three more deaths.

As of Saturday night, Ontario’s rate of active COVID-19 cases was 276 per 100,000, compared to 391 per 100,000 in Alberta.

Nicole Thompson and Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Coronavirusvaccines

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

Just Posted

The Cariboo Regional District. (Angie Mindus photo)
Telus tower proposed for Horse Lake Road

CRD will consider a proposal for wireless telecommunications facility.

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Probe into TNRD spending taken over by federal police unit

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

Janet Wright, 82. has been skiing since she was in her 20s and has regularly skied 50 km a day at least once each winter just to prove she can. (Photo submitted)
Nordic skiers track record year, personal bests

Oban Chambers, 9, and Janet Wright, 82, clocked the most miles these season

Amanda Patterson is excited to open the South Cariboo Farmers' Market at the South Cariboo Rec Centre this Friday, May 7. (Kelly Sinoski photo, 100 Mile Free Press).
Farmers, crafters get set for market

South Cariboo Farmer’s Market opens on Friday, May 7.

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

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread continues with 694 new cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Most Read