AstraZeneca vaccine halted in P.E.I., raising concerns

by | Apr 3, 2021 | Canadian News, News

A group of young Canadians scheduled to receive their COVID-19 vaccine shots suddenly had their appointments cancelled on Monday in Prince Edward Island.

The province halted all AstraZeneca vaccinations on March 29.

It was later revealed Canada’s vaccine advisory committee had recommended stopping use of AstraZeneca’s shot for those under 55 following reports of rare blood clot issues experienced in Europe.

Since then, the Netherlands also suspended its use for people under 60 following the death of a woman, Reuters reported on April 2.

The P.E.I. decision follows the the third time Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization had changed its guidance on the vaccine.

Earlier in March, over a dozen European countries temporarily halted the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine shot after a few people began experiencing adverse side effects.

The cases reported included low platelet counts would occasionally lead to dangerous clots in a brain vein.

Further research from Germany published over the weekend found the clots found after vaccination were similar to those triggered by a disorder tied to the use of a blood thinner called heparin. The disorder is treatable if identified.

The German research hasn’t emerged as a be-all, end-all for the shot, however, as it is being called into some scrutiny. The authors received personal fees from Pfizer, a company making a competing vaccine.

Other experts have also said the research doesn’t definitively prove the vaccine is behind the dangerous clots.

But there were concerns, especially in regards to younger women, who have experienced most of the clotting cases.

This led the Canadian advisory group to recommend halting some of the AstraZeneca shots, causing confusion as to whether the country’s health authorities were united.

Despite concerns the advisory group, Health Canada and the federal public health agency were on different pages when it came to the AstraZeneca product, Chief Public Health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the trio were in “lockstep”.

“The advice on any medication or vaccine can evolve over time and I think Canadians should be reassured that we have systems in place to detect safety signals and then analyze them,” Tam said Tuesday.

For now, Health Canada’s guidance on the shot hasn’t changed: for those 18 and older, the benefits of receiving the shot outweigh the risks.

Humber College student Mahek Khan told Humber Et Cetera she would still take the shot.

“I would take the AstraZeneca vaccine despite the claims of it giving blood clots because it has been administered enough for the good to outweigh the bad,” the first year Paralegal Education student said.

The national advisory committee’s chair Dr. Caroline Quach said in a news interview Tuesday her group is waiting on further data from the vaccine supplier so she can make a more definitive recommendation.

Canada has already administered about 300,000 doses of the drug without reporting any negative side effects.