HALIFAX — As Nova Scotia readies to expand access to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the province's chief medical officer is offering further assurances on its safety.
Dr. Robert Strang said Thursday the province will receive 38,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week. Bookings for that vaccine open Tuesday for people aged 55 to 64.
"Anyone over 55 can still get this vaccine if given the choice, as the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the increased risk that COVID-19 poses to the older adults," Strang told reporters. "If we didn't think this vaccine was safe … it would not be part of our vaccine program."
Nova Scotia's decision to offer the vaccine only to residents 55 and older is in line with a recommendation made earlier this week by a federal advisory committee.
Strang said appointments for 13,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for people aged 60 to 64 are fully booked. "I hope this continues as we get more of the AstraZeneca available," he said.
He said he understands some people may be hesitant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine because of reports of rare cases of blood clots, primarily in women under 55 in Europe. Strang said people 55 to 64 who prefer another vaccine will have to wait about another month.
Health officials said Thursday anyone 70 and older can immediately book an appointment for the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will be administered at community clinics and participating pharmacies across the province.
The province said it had administered 106,623 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday, with 28,552 people having received a booster shot.
Premier Iain Rankin said more than half of Nova Scotians over 80 have received one shot and more than 85 per cent of health-care workers have also received at least one jab.
Rankin urged people who are now eligible to book an appointment. "Please take that step, it's critical," he said. "This is our way forward out of the pandemic and back to normal."
Nova Scotia reported three new cases of COVID-19 Thursday — two in the Halifax area and one in the western health zone. Officials said there were 24 active reported cases and one person was in hospital with the disease.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press