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May. 21, 2022 | Saturday
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AstraZeneca vaccine '100% effective' against death, hospitalization, Hirji says
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Niagara's top doctor says the public should have confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite recent concern about the vaccine's efficacy around the world.

This week the drug company announced the vaccine was found to be about 79 per cent effective in trials in the United States but questions then erupted about the accuracy of the data.

The region's acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said his advice regarding AstraZeneca vaccine is "based on the careful scientific assessment of data by (Canada's) National Advisory Committee on Immunizations, particularly large clinical trials conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, as well as three months of real-world use in the United Kingdom where AstraZeneca is the primary vaccine of their COVID-19 vaccination program."

"This data strongly supports the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine," he told The Lake Report Tuesday.

He said media reports that some of the data AstraZeneca released might be incomplete are "unfortunate" but they don't change his assessment.

"We don’t base our opinions on vaccines around press releases from producers. We base it on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and their scientific review of the full, raw data of vaccine research."

In a conference call with reporters Monday, Hirji said the 79 per cent effectiveness initially reported "mirrors very closely to what we're seeing in terms of the efficacy of clinical trials elsewhere in the world, where it's close to 82 per cent effective." 

"And more significantly, I think that vaccine is 100 per cent effective at preventing death or COVID-19 hospitalization, which is the most important thing that we want to see this vaccine do."

While in Ontario the vaccine mainly has been given to people age 60 to 64, he said it is also showing to be just as effective for older people.

"So, some of those concerns that were initially present where maybe this vaccine didn't work as well in the 65 and above population, I think continue to be disproven," he said.

"In the United Kingdom, they've got 11 to 12 million people vaccinated with AstraZeneca and there again, they're seeing it's working really well on that 65 age group. And so this is one more vaccine we have, that really can go to any adult, and it's going to have a real good impact."

He also said people should not be concerned about reports of blood clot issues related to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"After more full review of the data, that really does not seem to be a significant concern, and it looks like their rate of getting those blood clots is equal to people who've been vaccinated versus the people who are not vaccinated."

He said for the people who got blood clots, it was "just their background" and it's unfortunate that "a couple of people got those blood clots shortly after getting their vaccine."

All four of the vaccines available in Canada "are very safe, very effective and most importantly, they're going to make sure people don't die, and make sure people don't get hospitalized. My opinion is the first vaccine you can get is the best vaccine you can get," he said.

Any vaccine will protect people from dying and keep them out of hospital, he noted, "and also make sure that you're not going to potentially pass infection on to people in your household or social context, who might be very vulnerable."