National Post (Latest Edition)

More provinces lower age for vaccine

- Morgan Lowrie

The race between vaccines and surging COVID-19 variants hit a new gear on Monday as more provinces announced they would expand access to the OxfordAstr­azeneca shot and Ontario and Quebec partially closed their borders to slow the spread.

Manitoba and Quebec both said they would lower the minimum age of eligibilit­y for the Astrazenec­a shot, following on the heels of Alberta and Ontario.

Manitoba, Ontario, and Alberta have set the minimum age at 40, down from 55, while Quebec’s public health director said the province would make an announceme­nt soon on new eligible groups.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizati­on recommends offering the Astrazenec­a shot to those 55 and over because of a slightly elevated risk of an extremely rare blood clot disorder.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, however, suggested on Sunday that new national recommenda­tions were coming soon and reminded reporters that Health Canada has licensed the Astrazenec­a shot for use in people over the age of 18.

Tom Mcmillan, a spokesman for Alberta Health, said the decision to offer the vaccine to younger people was based on health data along with concerns that vaccine hesitancy in older groups would slow the rollout.

“By opening up to (age) 40, we are balancing the evidence around safety as well as the goal of getting doses into people’s arms as quickly as possible,” Mcmillan said Monday.

He said the decision would mean hundreds of thousands more Albertans could be vaccinated more quickly.

In Ontario, which has become the epicentre for the virus in Canada, phones were buzzing with calls from people eager to get the shot, according to the head of the Ontario Pharmacist­s Associatio­n.

“They were getting calls so it seems to me that there is still a lot of demand,” Justin Bates, the organizati­on’s CEO, said Monday.

Ontario and Quebec imposed new interprovi­ncial travel restrictio­ns on Monday in an effort to keep the transmissi­on of more contagious variants at bay.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consider invoking the federal Emergencie­s Act in light of the crisis.

“I believe such a declaratio­n, applied to Ontario, could help ensure a more co-ordinated delivery of vaccines to those who need them most, as well as enabling workers to prevent the spread by taking paid sick days and time off to get vaccinated,” Singh wrote to Trudeau in a letter.

The NDP leader noted that in Toronto, the wealthiest neighbourh­oods have higher rates of vaccinatio­n than neighbourh­oods where racialized and working-class people live — areas that have higher levels of COVID-19 positivity.

 ?? NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Pharmacist Barbara Violo of Toronto arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-astrazenec­a COVID-19 vaccines
on Monday that she has provided to customers during the pandemic.
NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS Pharmacist Barbara Violo of Toronto arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-astrazenec­a COVID-19 vaccines on Monday that she has provided to customers during the pandemic.

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