Canada recommends AstraZeneca vaccine despite U.S. criticism of trial data

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada on Tuesday said the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe and will continue to be recommended for use despite criticism from U.S. health officials of the drugmaker’s analysis of the shot’s efficacy, health officials said.

“The message is that the efficacy and the safety of the vaccine have been shown,” senior Health Canada official Marc Berthiaume told reporters. “It continues to be beneficial for Canadians to prevent COVID-19.”

Deliveries of coronavirus vaccines are ramping up in Canada, with some 2 million doses of the Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc vaccines coming in this week. The United States has said it is sharing 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada as early as this week.

The U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Monday that the board charged with ensuring the accuracy of AstraZeneca’s latest trial said the company may have given an incomplete view of the shot’s effectiveness. The company has since said it will publish up-to-date results here from its latest trial within 48 hours.

“We will look at the complete data package (from the U.S.) sometime in April, and will assess and communicate the results,” said Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada, the federal health ministry. “The bottom line is: that doesn’t change recommendations on the AstraZeneca vaccine at this time.”

There will be a delay of a day or two of the delivery of the Moderna vaccines this week, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said on Twitter on Tuesday, adding that bookings for shots will not be affected.

Also on Tuesday, Canada said it would give C$23.7 million ($18.9 million) to the province of Ontario to open more voluntary isolation sites for those who catch the virus and need a place to quarantine as cases surge during a third wave.

Canada has recorded about 940,000 virus infections and more than 22,700 deaths from COVID-19.

($1 = 1.2561 Canadian dollars)

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