Feb 03, 2021

By Jane Brown

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We’re learning more than a million additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine could be headed to Canada by the end of March, in part to the global vaccine sharing initiative known as COVAX.

The COVAX Facility pools funds from wealthier countries to buy vaccines for themselves and for 92 low and middle income nations that can’t afford to buy on their own.

Canada contributed $440-million to the effort, half of which secured doses for Canada directly.

It is expected the extra doses will be from Oxford-AstraZeneca, although the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be approved by Health Canada.

There are also some concerns that the AstraZeneca vaccine may not protect older people as well as younger people.

Some countries, including France, have authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine only for use in people under 65, saying there is not enough evidence to say whether it works in older adults. Belgium has authorized it only for people 55 and under.

Yet one of the lead researchers on the Oxford vaccine project, Dr. Andrew Pollard, said “we expect it to be highly effective in older adults” and said more data should be available in the next few weeks.

In another development, Britain’s health chief said Wednesday that a new study suggesting that a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine provides a high level of protection for 12 weeks supports the government’s strategy of delaying the second shot so it can protect more people quickly with a first dose.

Britain’s decision has been criticized as risky by other European countries, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the study “backs the strategy that we’ve taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively.”

Hancock’s comments came after Oxford University released a study showing the vaccine cut transmission of the virus by two-thirds and prevented severe disease.

Britain has Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 108,000 deaths, and is in its third national lockdown as authorities try to contain a new, more transmissible virus variant first identified in southeast England.

Other variants are also a concern. Public health officials in England are going door to door, trying to test all adults in eight targeted communities in an attempt to stop a new strain first identified in South Africa from spreading further.

In Ontario, there are at least 69 cases of the U.K. variant and 1 of the South African variant.

(With contributions from The Associated Press)

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