Ontario says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered to individuals 40 years old and over in pharmacies and primary care settings starting on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed the change on Sunday evening.
"I can confirm that based on current supply, Ontario will begin offering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to individuals aged 40 and over at pharmacy and primary care settings across the province effective Tuesday," the spokesperson said.
There have been growing calls for the provincial government to make the vaccine more widely available as Ontario continues to see record numbers in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations amid a third wave that is mainly driven by variants of concern. The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently available only to adults aged 55 and older following the recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). It is in response to cases of younger people developing a rare blood clot after receiving the shot. On Saturday, Alberta reported that a patient who got the AstraZeneca vaccine developed a vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia. It is the second case of the rare blood clot disorder in Canada. Despite the two cases, Health Canada maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks. The agency approved the use of the vaccine for those 18 years old and over. During a news conference on Sunday afternoon, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu was asked if she will support lowering the age for the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ontario. "Provinces and territories are free to use AstraZeneca in any age population over 18 as per Health Canada’s license for use in Canada," Hajdu said. "NACI provides recommendations based on the current evidence and evolves their advice as new evidence comes in. In fact, they are reviewing AstraZeneca advice now, and we'll have an update in the near future. But there was nothing stopping the province of Ontario for changing their advice for use to their physicians within Ontario." She said 4.8 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to Ontario to date, with 3.8 million shots administered. Hajdu added that 395,000 doses are coming this week. In an effort to dispel concerns over the vaccine, Premier Doug Ford, Minister Elliott and Toronto Mayor John Tory all received their first dose of the AstraZeneca shots on camera. More than 1,400 pharmacies in the province are offering the vaccine. - with files from The Canadian Press