(Adds reaction from AstraZeneca)
OTTAWA, June 1 (Reuters) - An official Canadian panel on Tuesday said people who received a first shot of AstraZeneca PLC’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 said.
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,” Tam told a briefing.
NACI also said the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna could be used interchangeably.
AstraZeneca said in a statement it fully respected the NACI recommendations and would work with various health authorities “to provide all available data on our vaccine to best inform their decisions.”
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% 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 reported on Tuesday.
Canada has so far recorded a total of 25,547 COVID-19 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. (Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Aurora Ellis and Howard Goller)