Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has reversed its guidelines to now recommend using the AstraZeneca vaccine on seniors.
On March 1, the committee initially said the vaccine couldn’t be used for anyone 65 years and older due to limited information on its efficacy.
At the time, NACI said in clinical trials COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated high efficacy (approximately 94%), but the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated an average efficacy of approximately 62% in those 18 to 64 years of age.
However, on Tuesday, the committee said they’ve considered three recent real-world effectiveness studies to inform the recommendation change.
“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,” the statement says.
According to NACI, the real-world evidence from the UK — which has been administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people 65 years of age and older — demonstrates “high safety and effectiveness” of the vaccine in older adults, particularly against “severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization.”
“In light of the new evidence that emerged, NACI met to review this new real-world data from three studies, two of which are large population-level studies, demonstrating high safety and effectiveness of AstraZeneca vaccine in older adults, in particular against severe disease (such as hospitalization), including in adults over the age of 80 years old with significant medical comorbidities,” the committee added.
NACI said they 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.
Last week, Health Canada said the vaccine was safe after blood clots were reported post-immunization.
Health Canada said it was aware of reports from several European countries that adverse events have followed immunization with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Still, the health agency reassured Canadians that the benefits of the company’s vaccine continue to outweigh any risks.