The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says it is safe for Canadians aged 65 years and older to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

While Health Canada had approved its use for seniors on February 26, NACI had recommended it be limited to individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 at the time.

The disconnect between the Canadian health authority and its advisory panel was because Phase 3 clinical trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine had a very small number of participants over 65 years of age that contracted COVID-19 to determine the efficacy of the vaccine in this age group, NACI clarified.

But after doing further research the advisory panel says it is on board with Health Canada’s recommendation.

The change in recommendation is based on three recent real-world effectiveness studies, NACI said in a statement.

“There is now real-world evidence from the United Kingdom who has been administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people 65 years of age and older. This evidence demonstrates high safety and effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine in older adults, particularly against severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization,” NACI stated.

“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.

“Following this careful review, NACI decided to expand recommendations for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to include those 65 years of age and over,” the statement read.

NACI says it 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.

The advisory panel continues to recommend that in the context of limited vaccine supply, initial doses of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) should be prioritized for key populations, especially those at highest risk of severe illness and death and highest risk of exposure to COVID-19.

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