Ontario faces more vaccine delays as it struggles to tame third COVID-19 wave


Toronto (Reuters) – Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday the province expects to face a delay in the supply of AstraZeneca Plc COVID-19 vaccine, dealing another blow to its efforts to contain a punishing third wave of the pandemic.

“In addition to the delayed and cut Moderna shipments, the Premier was notified today by our officials to be prepared for delays to two shipments of AstraZeneca expected from the federal government later this month and next,” a statement from Ford’s office said.

Canada’s most-populous province said on Sunday it would lower the minimum age for recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 40 from 55..

Ontario announced 4,447 new cases on Monday, with a 10.5% positivity rate and 19 more deaths. The rising caseload – 755 COVID-19 patients in intensive care on Monday – has pushed the province’s hospitals to the brink.

On Friday, the government announced measures including closing its borders with the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba. But the following day it reversed its decision to close playgrounds and amended its granting of extra powers to police to enforce a stay-at-home order.

Moderna Inc said last week that vaccine shipments to Canada would be cut to 650,000 doses from 1.2 million.

Before Ontario decided to lower the age group for AstraZeneca vaccines, doctors and pharmacists had expressed concern that not enough people were signing up to take the AstraZeneca shot, citing blood clot fears. Two people in Canada have developed clots after receiving the shot and are recovering.

Nadjla Banaei, client care coordinator at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto, has had several clients express concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine. They may have underlying health conditions and worry about what they have read, she said.

“We’ve had several people say: ‘No, no thanks, we’ll wait for Pfizer and Moderna,’” Banaei said.

The move to lower the age group expands the pool of potential AstraZeneca recipients but does not necessarily quell fears around it, she said.

“Why did they drop the age all of a sudden? What are we supposed to communicate to people? … Of course, with all these changes, people are going to be hesitant.”

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said over the weekend that the provinces were free to offer AstraZeneca to anyone over 18.

Alberta and Manitoba have also said they would lower the age.

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