Residents above the age of 40 are now able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

Announced April 19, Ontario has now expanded the eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 40, which will be available at participating pharmacies and primacy care settings as of today.

“As we continue to fight COVID-19, we are doing everything possible to get as many vaccines into arms as quickly and safely as possible,” says Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.

Each province has the power to change the age range of eligibility for each COVID-19 vaccine at any time, with recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.

“By extending vaccination eligibility for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at pharmacies and primary care settings to individuals aged 40 and over, Ontario will be able to offer the protection of the vaccine to more Ontarians earlier than anticipated,” adds Williams.

Health Canada says it is about 62 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, with mostly mild and short-lived side-effects like headaches, fatigue and soreness at the injection site.

Last week, after a review of available data from Europe and the United Kingdom, Health Canada announced it would not be restricting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in any specific population at this time. This means its considered safe for anyone over the age of 18, despite concerns of blood clots after receiving the vaccine.

“The potential risk of these events is very rare, and the benefits of the vaccine in protecting against COVID-19 outweigh its potential risks,” states Health Canada’s report.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has listed the risk of getting a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine at roughly 4 in 1 million or 1 in 250,000. In Canada, a man in his 60s was diagnosed with a blood clot linked to the vaccine on April 17, only the second such issue reported in Canada.

Public health staff and the federal government are tracking any Adverse Events Following Immunization, unwanted side effects that may or may not be caused by a COVID-19 vaccine known as AEFI’s, that have been reported locally and in Canada, respectively.

Out of the 7.5 million estimated doses administered across Canada as of April 9, there have been 3,444 total reports or about 0.045 percent of all doses administered.2,980 of those reports were considered non-serious, and 464 were considered serious, or 0.006 percent.

If you do develop unexpected symptoms or side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, you’re asked to contact your local healthcare provider, who will, in turn, report the AEFI to the province and federal governments, which is standard for all vaccines.

“This still remains a very safe and effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19, said Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford. “The complications are very, very limited. I’ve spoken to people in the community who have got the vaccination, and I think they’re relieved that they have a first line of defence against COVID-19.”

Rickford, who also serves as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Energy and Indigenous Affairs notes he’s now eligible to be vaccinated, and he’ll be receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine through a local pharmacy.

“We’re encouraged to see the federal government announce that AstraZeneca is safe for people 18 years and older. The lower the age threshold gets, the more promise there is that a greater number of people will get vaccinated,” says Rickford.

Earlier this month, Rickford said Ontario’s goal is to vaccinate roughly 40 percent of its total population by the end of the stay-at-home orders, which have been extended to May 20 at the earliest.

During the interview, the Minister stressed lower-than-expected numbers of the vaccine arrived in northwestern Ontario and across Canada as a whole, partially leading to Ontario’s ongoing public health restrictions.

“Supply of all vaccines continues to be a significant challenge for us. Much of this would not have to happen had we been able to live up to what we thought our original supply was going to be at specific timelines. Those delays have proved problematic, and put us in some of the restrictions we’re experiencing now as a result.”

The No Frills Pharmacy in Kenora, Shoppers Drug Mart in Dryden, the Pharmasave in Fort Frances and about 700 other pharmacies in the province are able to provide the shot, and appointments can be booked through your pharmacy directly.