On Monday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams announced that the province is lowering the eligibility age for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine being administered at pharmacies and primary care settings to individuals aged 40 and over.

“Starting Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Ontario will offer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to individuals aged 40 and over at pharmacy and primary care settings across the province,” Dr. Williams said in a media statement. “By extending vaccination eligibility for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at pharmacies and primary care settings to individuals aged 40 and over, Ontario will be able to offer the protection of the vaccine to more Ontarians earlier than anticipated. With supply of AstraZeneca available at this time, the expansion of eligibility will also significantly increase access to vaccines in hot spot communities.”

A day prior, Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca called on the Ford government to release the AstraZenecea vaccines to all Ontarians above the age of 18 years.

“Doug Ford must release the AstraZeneca vaccine from pharmacy freezers and get it into the arms of anyone over 18 in a hotspot. Minister Hajdu was clear: there is nothing stopping him from getting shots into arms,” Del Duca said.

Concerns about blood clots prompted the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine only for Canadians in the 55+ age group. However the advisory board is expected to change its recommendation and bring it line with Health Canada’s approval of the COVISHIELD vaccine for adults 18 years and older.

At a press conference on Sunday, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu reiterated that the vaccine was safe. She said that provinces need not restrict vaccine administration because of NACI’s recommendations as Health Canada had already approved it for use in people over 18 years of age.

Reassuring Ontarians about the benefits of the AstraZeneca vacine outweighing risks, Dr. Williams said adverse reactions are extremely rare.

“All COVID-19 vaccines available in Ontario have been shown to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death,” Ontario’s top doctor said. “Adverse reactions are extremely rare. We strongly recommend that everyone book their appointment as soon as they are eligible.”

“We continue to be actively engaged with Health Canada on updated AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safety. Last week, based on the review of available data from Europe and United Kingdom, Health Canada announced that it was not restricting the use of AstraZeneca vaccine in any specific populations at this time.

“The health and safety of Ontarians is always our top priority, and for that reason, only COVID-19 vaccines that Health Canada determines to be safe and effective are approved for use in Ontario, he added.

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