Alberta lowering eligibility for AstraZeneca vaccine from age 55 to 40 Tuesday

CALGARY — More than 500,000 additional Albertans will be eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday after Premier Jason Kenney said in a tweet Sunday evening the province is lowering the benchmark age to qualify for the AstraZeneca vaccine from 55 to 40 years old.

The decision comes on the heels of a similar announcement from Ontario earlier that day, with health officials saying the changes are based on “current supply,” as that province grapples with a third-wave of infections.

Kenney says the decision is based on growing scientific knowledge about the vaccine and beginning on Tuesday, anyone age 40 and up can book an appointment to get the shot.

As well, Health Canada has also approved recently the vaccine for use in anyone 18 and older.

There have been recent reports of low uptake from Albertans for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Only about one-third of Alberta’s available doses of AstraZeneca have been administered and the two largest vaccination clinics in Calgary and Edmonton have reported low traffic.

Health officials believe there are concerns over very rare blood clots detected in some jurisdictions — including two Canadians, one of those an Alberta man in his 60s announced Saturday.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says officials are continuing to monitor the safety of all vaccines and added the risks of blood clots are extremely rare.

She says according to the latest statistics, the chances of blood clots are one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of vaccine.

“In comparison, Albertans 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a one-in-200 chance of dying from that infection. They are also at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19,” she said.

Officials say lowering the eligibility age means 575,425 more Albertans can be vaccinated, bringing the total eligible population to 2.3 million.

“With COVID-19 cases at high levels throughout the province, we are lowering the age eligibility for this vaccine so that as many Albertans as possible are able to choose the protection this vaccine offer,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“The more people that get vaccinated as quickly as possible, the sooner we can protect our communities, reduce the burden on our healthcare system, and get life back to normal in our province.”

Canada is not expected to receive any new shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine over the next seven days. Kenney’s tweet also stated more details would be shared Monday morning.

This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the day

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