The committee that makes recommendations on the use of newly approved vaccines in Canada has changed its guidelines on the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine and is now recommending it be given to those over the age of 65.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) expanded its recommendations on Tuesday.
"While all available vaccines in Canada are safe and effective, NACI still recommends that in the context of limited vaccine supply initial doses of mRNA vaccines should be prioritized for those at highest risk of severe illness and death and highest risk of exposure to COVID-19," said a statement from the committee.
(Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines, while the AstraZeneca-Oxford dose is a viral vector vaccine.)
Earlier this month, the committee had recommended Canadians over 65 not receive an AstraZeneca-Oxford shot, while Health Canada, the regulator, had authorized it to be used in adults of all ages.
NACI's initial recommendations were based largely on AstraZeneca-Oxford's clinical trial data and didn't examine real-world evidence past Dec. 7 — months before the effectiveness of the vaccine was fully realized in other countries for older age groups.
On Tuesday, the committee said it has since considered three recent real-world effectiveness studies — including new evidence from the United Kingdom, which has been administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people 65 years of age and older — to inform its change in recommendation.
"This evidence demonstrates that the vaccine is safe and effective in older adults, particularly against severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization," said the committee.
"NACI will continue to closely monitor data from ongoing clinical trials and evidence from real-world use of the AstraZeneca vaccine and will revise their recommendation as needed."
It now remains to be sorted how the change in recommendations will affect provincial and territorial vaccine rollout plans.
With files from Adam Miller
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