The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 19


Some provinces begin to expand AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility

Manitoba on Monday followed on the heels of Ontario and Alberta by announcing that anyone aged 40 and up is now eligible to receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for ages 18 and up in February, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization more recently recommended a temporary pause in giving it to people younger than 55 as it looked into European incidents of rare blood clots in some patients. A handful of cases have since been detected in Canada.

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.

"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," Manitoba vaccine team lead Dr. Joss Reimer said Monday in a statement.

On Sunday, the federal government said the provinces and territories were free to expand eligibility for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to any adult over the age of 18 as some pharmacists across the country warned they had doses sitting idle because of the age restrictions.

"Provinces and territories are free to use AstraZeneca in any population over 18 per Health Canada's licence for use in Canada," federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters.

Saskatchewan and Quebec are among the other provinces where officials have said they will review their age guidelines with respect to the AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of the comments from health officials in Ottawa.

In Toronto on Monday, Mayor John Tory put out a call to those in the newly adjusted age range and not at risk for the very rare clotting issue to get their AstraZeneca shot. Tory, who turns 67 next month, pointed out it was the vaccine he received a dose of last week, to no ill-effect.