Phones ringing off the hook at Ottawa pharmacies as bookings for AstraZeneca vaccine open up to 40 and older

OTTAWA — Ontario is expanding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility in pharmacies and primary care settings across Ontario to any individual born in or before 1981 starting Tuesday.

The move to make AstraZeneca vaccine available to more age groups has Kim Bruton worrying a little less.

“It just feels really good,” says Bruton. “It’s a big sigh of relief. I’m a teacher, I’m fortunate to work from home this year, and I have a daughter going through chemotherapy so she’s immunocompromised.”

Bruton, a mother of two, says she called her local pharmacy in Richmond Monday morning to be added to the appointment list. She hopes to get her shot by the end of the week.

There have been growing calls for the Ontario government to make vaccines more widely available as Ontario continues to see record numbers in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, mainly driven by variants of concern.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently available only to adults aged 55 and older following the recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), in response to cases of younger people developing rare blood clots after receiving the shot.

On Saturday, Alberta reported that a patient who got the AstraZeneca vaccine developed a condition called a vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia. It is the second case of the rare blood clot disorder in Canada.

Despite the two cases, Health Canada maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks of getting COVID-19. The agency approved the use of the vaccine for those 18 years old and over.

At the Richmond Village Pharmacy, pharmacist and owner Georgetta Botehkan says she received 200 doses of AstraZeneca last Thursday and began administering the shots on Friday. Since then, it has been non-stop. On Monday, with news of the age reduction, the phone has been ringing off the hook.

“It’s good to see people are stepping up and getting the vaccine,” says Botehkan. “In order to win over these variants I really suggest to people to get as soon as possible like the one that’s offered to them do not shop for vaccines because the brand is not important.”

There are currently 113 pharmacies in Ottawa that offer a shot at the AstraZeneca vaccine. A list can be found on the an Ontario government website. In order to book an appointment at a pharmacy, you are required to contact them directly.

Botehkan says Ontario supplies the vaccine to pharmacies and that she doesn’t know when the next shipment will arrive.

“I’m guessing, as we run out, the ministry will send us more. We did not get any other information, just that the vaccines were shipped,” says Botehkan. “As long as we have supply that’s how we get everybody vaccinated.”

According to the province, it received 538,400 doses of the vaccine between March 29 and April 4 as part of a U.S. loan deal with Canada. A spokesperson for the government said last Thursday that 500,000 of those doses have been delivered to pharmacies and doctors’ offices but have yet to be administered.

–With files from CP24’s Bryann Aguilar.

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