TORONTO -- Canadian researchers are calling for a more nuanced approach to vaccinating the population, shifting away from a focus on age and health risks and towards a more equitable rollout.

The researchers looked at data from 61,000 Canadians to determine how many are considered at-risk for COVID-19 based on health conditions. They found that 75 per cent had at least one condition that heightened the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Friday.

"When 75 per cent of people are eligible, that's not really prioritization," Finlay McAlister, professor in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and lead author, said in a press release.

In order to prioritize those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19, rollout plans will have to shift away from the age and risk factor models currently being used.

“The third wave is showing us that the most vulnerable are people in economically marginalized neighbourhoods where people live and work in close proximity—a group that wasn’t prioritized for vaccination before,” McAlister said.

He said that while age and risk factors may have been an appropriate measure in the first wave of the rollout, it no longer meets the needs of Canadians, particularly while supplies are limited.

The authors agree with the National Advisory Committee of Immunization’s decision to prolong the time between first and second doses of the vaccine except for in specific patients, like those with cancer or who have had an organ transplant as they seem to only pick up partial immunity.

"We want as many people as possible to develop immunity as quickly as possible so there's less chance for new variants to develop,” said McAlister.


This story has been updated to adjust a quote which was included in a draft press release which was accidentally published.