Several provinces lowered the eligible age bracket for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine this week, prompting Gen X’ers to proudly share their vaccination journeys on social media.
On Sunday, Canada’s federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, said provinces and territories were “free to use” AstraZeneca’s vaccine on any groups aged 18 and above, despite the country’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation to not give the vaccine to those under 55.
Hajdu said that the NACI’s recommendations were evolving based on the current evidence and that there was nothing stopping provinces from more widely using the vaccines.
B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario opened eligibility for anyone born in 1981 or earlier.
Provinces said the decision was made because of “current supply” of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as “growing scientific knowledge about the vaccine” and advice from chief medical officers of health.
In Alberta, on the first day the younger age group was eligible, there was more uptake in one day than the entire week prior, when only the older demographic was eligible.
The strong showing from Gen X’ers has prompted some hilarious memes and cultural references online.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was encouraged to see much more activity at the walk-in vaccination sites and a higher number of appointment bookings.
“Thank you to all those Albertans, age 40 and older, who’ve already signed up and showed up to get the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.
“So far the response has been amazing,” Kenney said. “We have about 70,000 appointments already booked for the next 10 days and that’s going up by the minute. That includes 27,000 bookings that were made today alone so far, and that is more uptake in one day than in all of last week.
“Well done to everybody who is participating.”
He said part of the reason Alberta lowered the age of eligibility for AstraZeneca’s vaccine was that “tens of thousands” of Albertans in the previous demographic were cancelling or not showing up for immunization appointments.
In a Facebook Live Wednesday night, Kenney said the main hold up, in terms of distribution, was lack of demand for this particular vaccine. He said there were as many as 180,000 doses of this vaccine waiting in freezers this past weekend because Alberta wasn’t seeing the uptake “we wanted or needed.”
Overall, Alberta has received 1.4 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines so far, Kenney said. It has administered about 1.2 million of that. He said 100 per cent of the Pfizer supply Alberta’s received has been administered, about 69 per cent of the Moderna supply, and only 23 per cent of the AstraZeneca supply.
Not enough people were coming forward, the premier said Wednesday, “but I think we’ve fixed that now.”
“I love seeing the humour,” said Timothy Caulfied. “I love seeing the little twists.”
Caulfield is a Canada research chair in health, law and policy at the University of Alberta.
“There’s research that shows that using humour, using stories, all of that is a great avenue for science communication and that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now.”
Kenney received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday and he shared a photo on Twitter.
“I think it is important for political leaders to show they’re getting their shots,” Caulfield said.
“We also know Conservatives are amongst the most hesitant demographic in Canada and certainly in the United States. To have those Conservative leaders step up and show they’re getting the vaccine and they’re comfortable about it, I think that’s terrific.”
Under normal circumstances, Caulfield says selfies might be considered narcissistic. But this is different, he says.
“These selfies are a celebration of science. I think they exemplify the joy that people have participating in something that’s good for not only them, but for their community.
“I do think it’s a good thing. I’m pro vaccine selfie.”
Caulfield says sharing those photos and memes online makes vaccination more relatable.
“It’s a way that we can normalize vaccination for people who may be a little hesitant, who may be a little concerned.”
He said it’s especially important when it comes to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“There’s been a lot of confusion. We know there’s been more hesitancy with the AstraZeneca vaccine… I got the AstraZeneca vaccine and I’m thrilled that I did and yup, I posted about it.”