National Post (Latest Edition)
More provinces lower age for vaccine
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.