Manitobans 40 and older can now get AstraZeneca vaccine

Manitobans aged 40 and up can now get the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine from a doctor or pharmacist.

No health preconditions are required to qualify.

Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for ages 18 and up in February, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization more recently recommended its administration to people younger than 55 be suspended as it looked into reports of rare blood clots in some patients.

An Oxford study has since found the risk of blood clots from a COVID-19 infection is eight to 10 times higher than from a vaccine. The odds of getting a blood clot from a vaccine are estimated to be between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000.

Manitoba was planning to wait for new recommendations from the committee before changing eligibility, but was under widespread pressure to act quickly due to high AstraZeneca supply.

“Based on all of the evidence available internationally to date, we continue to believe benefits of the AstraZeneca/ CoviShield vaccine to protect against COVID-19 outweigh any potential risks,” vaccine team medical lead Dr. Joss Reimer said Monday in a statement. CoviShield is the name for the batches of AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

“Expanding the criteria will help us reach more Manitobans, particularly those who may face challenges or face barriers in going to a supersite or pop-up clinic.”

Up until today, AstraZeneca vaccine was only available in Manitoba to anyone age 65 or older or people 55 to 64 in two priority groups based on vulnerabilites to COVID-19.

The narrow range of eligibility led some pharmacists and doctors unable to administer all the shots they received.

As of Monday, Manitoba had only administered about 30,000 of the 84,100 AstraZeneca doses sent to the province.

Over the weekend, Ontario and Alberta said they’ll start vaccinating people 40 and older with AstraZeneca on Tuesday.

Manitoba also announced Monday that general eligibility to be immunized at a super site or pop-up clinic — for any vaccine — has been lowered to those aged 54 or older and for First Nation people aged 34 or older.

Anyone who has been in Manitoba for one month or more can receive the vaccine at no cost if they meet provincial eligibility requirements.

A three-day pop-up vaccine clinic in Winnipeg opened Sunday at 1-1680 Notre Dame Ave. It will be open between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. until April 20.

More pop-up clinics are expected around the province after the government said last last week that it is shifting part of its approach to vaccination rollout, putting more focus on those living in communities with the highest risk of COVID-19 transmission.

A new pop-up clinic at 1-1680 Notre Dame Ave. in Winnipeg began taking appointments on Sunday. It will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until April 20. (Darin Morash/CBC)

The expanded eligibility includes all residents 18 or older and people with “front-line, public-facing roles” such as teachers working in the communities considered at risk.

All police officers in the province will also soon be eligible for vaccination.

Officials are expected to announce on Wednesday which communities and which specific professions will be eligible for priority vaccination.

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