What you need to know about getting an AstraZeneca vaccine in the Niagara region and beyond

Quebec's top doctor says province to expand eligibility for AstraZeneca vaccine today Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

The Ontario government has said the COVID-19 vaccine made by Oxford-AstraZeneca, which was previously available to residents aged 55 and older, will be offered to those 40 and older starting Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know:

Where is the vaccine being offered?

The government says the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot will be administered at more than 1,400 pharmacies across Ontario, as well as in certain doctors’ offices. Pharmacies offering inoculations are listed at covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.

Several pharmacies in West Niagara towns including some Guardian and Shoppers Drug Mart locations are offering it.

How do I get an AstraZeneca shot?

People who want to get the shot are advised to contact their doctor or a pharmacy directly to book an appointment. Shoppers Drug Mart said on social media that appointments can be secured through its website, (see related) but other pharmacies may be easier to reach by phone. In the past, some pharmacies have also offered walk-in appointments, so residents can also check if that’s an option.

There are no geographic restrictions on where residents can get a shot at a pharmacy, which means individuals can book an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy outside their home community if they choose. for example, if you commute to Toronto for work (and are an essential worker), but live in West Niagara, you could get your shot in the Toronto area.

Those seeking to book an appointment must have a valid Ontario health card or other form of government-issued identification. The province’s expanded eligibility for the shot includes those turning 40 this year.


How many Oxford-AstraZeneca doses does Ontario have?

In an open letter issued last week, a group of Progressive Conservative legislators said Ontario has about 543,000 doses of the vaccine. They said about half those doses were in pharmacies and another 117,000 with family doctors. The province did not immediately provide updated numbers Monday.

Though most of those doses aren’t set to expire until the end of May, the head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association has warned that each vial of 10 doses is only usable for six to 48 hours once punctured, depending on how it is stored once open. 


Why has the eligibility age changed?

Health Canada has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot for people 18 and older. 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization currently recommends using it on those 55 or older due to a slightly elevated risk of an extremely rare blood clot disorder. NACI is currently reviewing its recommendation.

Ontario had so far abided by the committee’s recommendations. However, the province has faced escalating pressure to make the shot available to more people – which is within its power – as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to skyrocket. It announced the change in its approach on Sunday.

Many health experts have said that the benefits of getting vaccinated vastly outweigh the risk. 

The clotting issue has been treatable when caught early.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press