The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said that there is now sufficient evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine against coronavirus can be safely and effectively used to immunize senior citizens.
The decision comes just over two weeks after NACI declared that there is not enough trial evidence to recommend its use on individuals over the age of 65.
According to NACI chair Dr. Caroline Quach, trials from the United Kingdom have now demonstrated the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, especially against severe coronavirus infections. She noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were more effective for defending the immune systems of the elderly against the virus, but that trials are increasingly showing more similar levels of effectiveness from AstraZeneca's vaccine.
Nevertheless, NACI still suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should be prioritized for seniors over the AstraZeneca vaccine if possible.
The announcement comes as more European countries are suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns that it may cause blood clots. Such concerns have arisen after reports from multiple countries found people getting blood clots shortly after receiving the vaccine.
Many health experts have noted that there is no evidence linking the blood clot cases to the vaccine as of yet, with Health Canada's Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma stating earlier this month that no evidence has shown how the vaccine could cause blood clots. Regardless, many countries are suspending the vaccine's use until the cause of the blood clots could be established.
Not all European countries have suspended AstraZeneca's vaccine either, with countries such as Italy, France, and Germany actually expanding the use of the vaccine to senior citizens along with Canada as evidence begins to mount of its efficacy.
Canadians do not seem to be overly concerned about the AstraZeneca vaccine either, with polls showing that a majority of Canadians intend to receive the coronavirus vaccine regardless of which one it is. Another quarter of poll respondents said that they would wait to receive a preferred vaccine.
However, due to vaccine shortages, it may be a long time before Canadians can effectively make that choice.