Alberta pausing use of AstraZeneca vaccine in those under 55

Tuesday, 30 Mar, 2021

Canadian experts on Monday recommended halting the use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 shots for people aged under 55, after a small but rising number of patients overseas suffered blood clots. It has also become a key tool in European countries' efforts to boost their sluggish vaccine rollouts.

The NACI will advise provinces to stop giving the vaccine to anyone under that age group, following Prince Edward Island's lead after they halted the shot for those aged 18 to 29 early on Monday.

Reimer said no cases of blood-clotting stemming from the vaccine have been identified in Canada.

Only those 60 and above have received AstraZeneca in Ontario, Canada's most populous province.

"Although cases in men have also been reported and have mostly occurred between four and 16 days after receipt of vaccine", NACI said, adding it is undertaking further investigation.

She called it "tremendously encouraging", and said it complements other recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere.

"I can tell you that they'll be updated messaging from Health Canada and NACI regarding onward use of AstraZeneca and who it might be appropriate for", she said, at an unrelated news conference Monday morning.

"From what is known at this time, there is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca vaccine to adults under 55 years of age, given the potential risks associated with VIPIT", said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer.

He did go on to confirm that people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine did not "roll the dice" but stressed that his comment is specific to the younger age group.

"These will include a requirement that the manufacturers conduct a detailed assessment of the benefits and risks of the vaccine by age and sex in the Canadian context", Health Canada said in the statement.

Manitoba made a decision to limit the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people between the ages of 55 and 64 as more information is being sought around some adverse symptoms in younger people noticed in the United Kingdom, according to the medical lead of the province's vaccine task force.

This follows reports from vaccine recipients in Europe who have experienced very rare instances of blood clots, particularly among younger women. Canada has placed bigger bets on Pfizer and Moderna, ordering up to 76 million doses of Pfizer and up to 44 million of Moderna, compared with up to 20 million of AstraZeneca.

The province launched its "Stick it to COVID" advertising campaign to encourage people to get a vaccine when it's their turn. There are so many doses of this vaccine being administered.

Since Ontario began vaccinating people in December, 309,285 residents are considered to be fully vaccinated.

Canada is expecting to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday from the United States, which has not yet authorized it for emergency use.