Ontario hopeful AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine will speed up distribution timeline
TORONTO -- Ontario officials are welcoming the approval of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, saying it will speed up the timeline for rolling out vaccinations in the province, even though it might not be distributed to people over 65.
“We now have access to a third vaccine here in Canada. Basically it accelerates all the vaccination timelines,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 Friday morning.
An infectious disease specialist who sits on the province’s vaccine distribution task force, Bogoch called it “fantastic news.”
Like the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses several weeks apart. However it does not have the same deep-cold storage requirements, making it easier to distribute.
“It just needs conventional refrigeration. This is something that can easily be provided in primary care clinics and pharmacies, just because it's less finicky for example than the other vaccines,” Bogoch said. “So good news for Canadians and hopefully we can get some shipments of this soon so we can accelerate those vaccine timelines.”
According to Health Canada, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be kept at refrigerated temperatures (from 2 C to 8 C) for at least six months.
Premier Doug Ford called the AstraZeneca approval Friday “the best news we've heard in a real long time” and said it will decrease the timeline for getting shots into arms.
“We all know the two questions we need to answer is when we're getting it and how much we're getting, but we're geared up. We're ready to go and just can't wait to get the third vaccine and looking forward to possibly a fourth or fifth vaccine as well.”
He suggested AstraZeneca is “really geared for people under 65,” but said it was still “great news.”
Data on the vaccine’s efficacy in people over 65 years old is currently limited, but Health Canada officials said Friday that there’s no evidence to suggest it is less effective for that population. Still, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to deliver a recommendation next week on who should receive the vaccine. It will be up to the provinces to make a final determination.
Some European countries have approved the Astrazeneca vaccine, but recommended it only for people under 65.
However Bogoch cautioned that people should not hold off getting an AstraZeneca shot because they perceive it to be less effective.
“We're all going to need an updated vaccine at some point,” he said. “I don't know when that's going to be, but we'll all very likely need either a booster vaccine, or an updated vaccine to accommodate for the variants of concern.”
He added that there is “an urgent need to protect Canadians from COVID-19.”
“We know that this vaccine will have very strong efficacy against the vast majority of COVID-19 here in Ontario and of course everywhere in Canada. So, there's an urgent need to vaccinate Canadians with quite frankly, any one of the vaccines that Health Canada is currently looking at.”