A vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen with injection supplies at a clinic in Winnipeg on March 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

A vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen with injection supplies at a clinic in Winnipeg on March 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Health Canada says AstraZeneca vaccine safe, effective but will add warning on clots

Canada has thus far received about 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Health Canada is devising a warning about a rare possible side-effect of blood clots from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but is still certain the inoculation is safe and effective against COVID-19.

The department’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said Tuesday the plan for a warning comes on the heels of a similar move in Europe last week but doesn’t change Health Canada’s analysis that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.

“We were observers at that European Medicines Agency subcommittee meeting, we’ve looked at the data as well,” she said. “And so we’re in the process of making similar changes to the information for Canadians.”

The European Medicines Agency last week amended its authorization of the vaccine to say there is no overall increase in the risk of blood clots after getting the vaccine but added a warning that a small number of patients had developed rare blood clots in the brain after getting it.

At the time the EMA couldn’t say if the clots were related to the vaccine. German and Norwegian scientists have since said in a very small number of patients the vaccine is causing an extreme immune response that is leading to the clots. It is a treatable condition, they said.

The EMA reported 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, out of about 20 million people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe, the United Kingdom, and India, and seven cases of another type of clotting disorder related to very low platelet counts.

Sharma said the vaccine is still hugely beneficial, including protecting against severe illness and death from the novel coronavirus’s variants of concern, but Health Canada is looking to adjust the label on the vaccine to note the reports of the rare types of clots and potential symptoms that could occur. Those include, she said, persistent and intense headaches that last for several days, shortness of breath and pain in the legs.

Sharma said there is no doubt all of the reports about this vaccine are a concern because they feed fears about its safety. She said Health Canada will continue to provide accurate and current information so Canadians can trust the vaccine is safe to get.

“We’ve said this many times before, that even the most effective vaccine only works if people trust it and agree to receive it,” she said. “It’s like any other reputation — once there’s some doubt that creeps into that reputation, it’s that much more difficult to gain that back.”

Canada has thus far received about 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and expects to get 1.5 million more as soon as this week from the United States.

Even without those doses Canada’s deliveries of more than two million doses of other COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are the most in a week yet. Though the first of two shipments expected from Moderna has been delayed a day, arriving Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

More than 3.5 million people in Canada have received at least one dose now.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said she knows everyone is tired of the “tricks and turns of this virus” and said there are many reasons to be hopeful, including the faster pace of vaccinations.

Still she warned, variants of concern continue to rise and the number of new COVID-19 cases rose 15 per cent over the last week. In turn, the numbers of people in hospital overall, and those needing intensive care, are creeping upwards.

In the last week an average of 2,100 people were in hospital in Canada being treated for COVID-19 on any given day, including 580 in critical care, compared to 2,040 in hospital and 550 in ICUs a week ago.

Since vaccinations began, COVID-19 infection rates in people over 80 have slowed, said Tam, but younger people, particularly under the age of 40, are seeing higher rates.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health in Alberta, said 88 per cent of the 48 patients in intensive care in that province are under age 65. Hinshaw said people need to continue to make good decisions to keep the spread of the virus down.

“Now is not the time to abandon the practices that have protected our communities and health care system over the past year,” said Hinshaw on Twitter. “Once we hit a growth phase of this virus, our #s will not stand still.”

READ MORE: Canadian doctors say getting COVID-19 poses greater risk of blood clots than the vaccine

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo playwright Anne Nesbitt is presenting a staged reading of her play about Indigenous conservationist Gertrude Bernard, also known as Anahareo (from left). (Photo courtesy Andrew Nesbitt/Riding Mountain National Park)
Nanaimo playwright tells the story of Indigenous woman who ‘saved the beaver’

Anne Nesbitt presents ‘Anahareo’ as part of TheatreOne staged reading series

The City of Nanaimo is looking at spending another $400,000 on security throughout downtown in 2021, with a focus on overnight security. (Stock photo)
City of Nanaimo looks at increasing downtown security

Council members will consider $400,000 increase in 2021, $1.45 million in 2022

‘Nanaimo’ will be spelled out in five-foot-tall letters upon a slab of concrete overlooking Swy-a-Lana Lagoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Greg Sakaki/The News Bulletin)
Five-foot-tall letters spelling out ‘Nanaimo’ coming to Maffeo Sutton Park

$50,000-project expected to be installed by the end of April

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help find a 37-year-old man who was last seen early Tuesday, April 13. (Photo submitted)
RCMP searching for missing Nanaimo man

Friends, family of Robert William Sport, 37, extremely concerned for his safety and well-being

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

A man sustained burns to his body near this spot around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 13 in Courtenay. The fire was left of the pathway. The Station youth housing facility and city public works yard are to the right of the trail. Photo by Terry Farrell
Man catches fire sleeping while outdoors in downtown Courtenay

Firefighters say man still burning when they arrived after he fell asleep next to his fire

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

A Nanaimo man will serve nine months in jail for the sexual assault of a young girl he admitted to having committed more than 40 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo man sentenced for sexually abusing girl more than 40 years ago

Man, now 71, gets nine-month sentence for abuse of friend’s daughter

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo teen arrested a day after allegedly assaulting and bullying victim

Teen taken into custody after wielding weapon and threatening driver at scene of car crash

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photo courtesy Ella Smiley)
Orcas near the beach thrill whale watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Most Read