The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), based on the current evidence, is recommending that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to individuals 30 years of age and older, without contraindications.
"NACI continues to preferentially recommend authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines due to the excellent protection they provide, the absence of a safety signal of concern and the acceptability of the vaccines by people in Canada," Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of NACI, said at a press conference on Friday.
"While VITT [vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia] is a rare but very serious adverse event, COVID-19 is causing hospitalizations and deaths across Canada, some jurisdictions, unfortunately, are experiencing devastating rates of illness and hospitalization straining their capacity."
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer for British Columbia, confirmed that the risk of VITT is the same across all age groups but it's "the risk of COVID itself that varies by age group."
"It's the risk of COVID that is in your community that drives the age that the benefit varies," Dr. Henry said.
To date, there have been four cases of confirmed VITT in Canada.
Dr. Deeks said it should be an individual's choice to choose to get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
"We’ve made the recommendation that anybody who, because of the..very rare risk of VITT, does not wish to receive that vaccine, they should be able to wait and receive an mRNA vaccine," she said.
"Ultimately though, NACI just makes recommendations. The vaccine policies throughout the country are decided by the provinces and territories."
Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chair of NACI, said it's all about the "risk benefit analysis"
"We do agree that what we want is to vaccinate Canadians as quickly as possible however, if you are in an area where there is no COVID transmission, if you have no contact with the outside or if you’re able to shelter through public health measures, then there is a possibility to wait for the mRNA vaccine," Dr. Quach-Thanh said.
"What was intended was to say, if somebody decides not he take the AstraZeneca for some reason, that person should not be put at the end of the list of the mRNA in terms of their priority."