Alberta will not be lowering the age eligibility for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at this time, despite new recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro cited limited supply as the reason Alberta will not offer the vaccine beyond the 40-plus age group that is currently eligible in the province.
“We’re seen a remarkable uptake from those wanting AstraZeneca,” Shandro said on social media Friday afternoon. “Unfortunately, our ability to expand eligibility to younger Albertans depends on the doses we receive from the federal government.
“With approximately 112,000 doses remaining at pharmacies and AHS sites, and over 100,000 appointments booked in the next 14 days, and no future shipments confirmed, we will continue administering doses to those 40 and older at this time.”
On Friday morning, NACI announced it now recommends the vaccine be used in people 30 years of age and older, “if the individual does not wish to wait for an mRNA vaccine and the benefits outweigh the risks,” said Shelley Deeks, NACI’s vice-chair.
Previously, NACI’s guidance said the shot should only be used on those aged 55 and older out of an abundance of caution after reports of very rare blood clots.
Earlier this week, Alberta — along with several other provinces — lowered the age eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone born in 1981 or earlier.
The move came after Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu reiterated on April 18 that provinces and territories are free to use the vaccine on anyone over 18 — which has been Health Canada’s official guidance since it approved AstraZeneca in February.
After Alberta lowered the age range for the vaccine, Gen X’ers came out in droves to receive the jab. Shandro said Friday that 48,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the last three days alone.
Shandro said while the new NACI recommendations are welcome, Alberta has not received confirmation of any future shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“We continue to prioritize protecting those who are most vulnerable to severe outcomes, and we’ll keep rolling out vaccines as quickly as possible,” Shandro said.
“The more doses we receive, the faster we can vaccinate Albertans so we can put the pandemic behind us.”
As of April 21, Alberta had administered 1,275,287 total doses of COVID-19. So far, 252,422 Albertans are fully vaccinated with two doses.
With files from Rachael D’Amore, Global News.