OTTAWA: An official Canadian panel on Tuesday (Jun 1) said people who received a first shot of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine can choose to receive a different shot for their second dose, dealing another potential blow to the pharmaceutical giant.
Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said one reason for the recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) was concern about rare and potentially fatal blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"If it weren't for that, then probably one would progress with giving the same (vaccine) as a second dose," she told reporters, adding Canada was following the example of others.
NACI said Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden, citing the risk of clots, were already offering second doses from Moderna Inc or Pfizer Inc to people who had received their first shots from AstraZeneca.
"It is good news that people now have the choice," said Tam.
NACI also said the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna could be used interchangeably.
AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment.
Tam said that as the pace of vaccinations picked up, the number of new daily cases was steadily dropping. It is now below 2,700, some 70 per cent below the peak earlier this year.
Some major provinces are gradually lifting restrictions linked to COVID-19 while others still face challenges.
The premier of Ontario, Canada's most populous province, is leaning strongly against reopening schools that have been shut since mid-April, the Toronto Star and CTV said on Tuesday.
Canada has so far reported a total of 25,547 deaths and 1,381,582 cases.
Separately, Statistics Canada said the epidemic had cut life expectancy by 0.41 years for both men and women, taking it back to 2013 levels.