AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP

National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

A national panel of vaccine experts says provinces should not use the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on seniors, opening the door for provinces to start vaccinating younger populations with the newly authorized vaccine much earlier than expected.

But similar advice initially issued in Europe began to be revisited Monday, with France overturning its earlier decision against using it on seniors, and Germany in the midst of reconsidering it.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was authorized for use Friday on all adults, including seniors, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is concerned there is limited data on how well the vaccine will work in older populations.

There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe for use, but the NACI panel said in its recommendations the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred for people 65 years old and above “due to suggested superior efficacy.”

NACI says Oxford-AstraZeneca should be offered to people under 65 as long as the benefits of getting a good vaccine earlier outweigh any limitations the vaccine may have in terms of effectiveness.

Individuals should be made aware of those limitations and how long they might otherwise wait for an mRNA vaccine, the advice says.

The panel’s advice helps provincial governments determine how best to use the vaccines available to them, but provinces can make their own calls about what to do.

It will now be up to provinces to determine if they open up vaccinations with Oxford-AstraZeneca to individuals under the age of 65.

Until now, provinces have not anticipated expanding the vaccination campaign to include people younger than that for several more months, most in what they call Phase 2 or even Phase 3, of their vaccine program.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the provincial government has decided to follow NACI’s advice and not give Oxford-AstraZeneca to anyone over the age of 65.

“How that’s going to change the administration of those who are in Phase 2 is still to be determined,” he said. “We’ll be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon.”

The NACI advice follows similar plans in many European countries. The European Medicines Agency said the vaccine could be used on all adults, but a number of countries decided not to use it for seniors because of the limited clinical data.

However, France reversed course Monday, with French Health Minister Olivier Véran saying Oxford-AstraZeneca was, along with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, remarkably effective against COVID-19.

A study released last week by Public Health Scotland, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been in use since Dec. 30, found COVID-19-related hospital admissions among seniors fell 94 per cent after getting the vaccine.

Nearly 500,000 people in the study had received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, most of them over the age of 80.

When vaccines are tested in clinical trials, thousands of participants get the vaccine and a similar number receive a placebo. The vaccine maker then waits until a minimum number of people are infected with COVID-19, and compares how many of those infected got the vaccine and how many did not.

Not enough seniors were among the group who did get infected with COVID-19 to be useful to draw conclusions in the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial. However, data on blood samples showed seniors given the vaccine did develop the antibodies to COVID-19 in similar levels to younger individuals.

Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna both had more substantial data for older participants in the clinical trials.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reported about 95 per cent effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 overall, while Oxford-AstraZeneca reported its vaccine to be about 62 per cent effective.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada overseeing the regulatory review, said Health Canada’s authorization is not out of step with the NACI recommendations.

Sharma said Health Canada noted the concerns about clinical data but authorized the vaccine for use because the data showed the vaccine to be both safe and effective in all adults.

“I agree with the recommendation,” she said Monday in an interview with The Canadian Press.

She said the preference is for those most vulnerable to get the vaccines with the best data available, but for those who are less vulnerable, getting this vaccine now could provide a significant benefit to them and to reducing overall COVID-19 caseloads.

READ MORE: Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

CNC’s Applied Research and Innovation had partnered with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cariboo Agricultural Research Alliance and Mackin Creek Farm after receiving funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to research a number of solutions potentially extending northern growing seasons. (Photo submitted)
Ways to extend growing season in B.C.’s north explored by College of New Caledonia in Quesnel

Low-cost supplemental LED lighting appears to benefit plant growth

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read