OTTAWA: Canada on Monday suspended the use of Oxford’s co-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55 over reports of ‘blood clots’ in some European countries.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued an advisory, citing the risks of blood clots from AstraZeneca jab saying that the cases were now potentially one in 100,000.
This comes as some countries in Europe had earlier halted the use of AstraZeneca over similar reports of rare blood clots developing among one in million, although the fatality rate spiked to 40 percent in those that administered the vaccine.
Health Canada had previously communicated on its ongoing assessment of very rare adverse events reported in Europe of thrombosis (blood clots) with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets) occurring after immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Health Canada said that to date, no cases of these events have been reported in Canada.
“However, through our ongoing international collaboration, Health Canada has become aware that additional cases of these events have been reported in Europe. In light of this evolving information, Health Canada will be issuing additional terms and conditions on the authorizations of the AstraZeneca and Verity Pharmaceuticals/Serum Institute of India vaccines,” the agency said
“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. This information will support the ongoing evaluation of these rare blood clotting events, and allow Health Canada to determine if there are specific groups of people who may be at higher risk. Health Canada has been in discussions with AstraZeneca on this evolving issue.”
Symptoms to look out for this adverse event include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms including sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision, skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination) or petechiae (unraised, round red spots under the skin caused by bleeding).
In a statement to Canadian local press CTV, Dr. Joss Reimer of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force media that that there was “substantial uncertainty about the jab for the adults under 55 of age and therefore the NACI had advised suspension pending further investigation”.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada, told a press conference: “We are taking this precautionary measure while Health Canada as the regulator completes its updated risk-benefit analysis based on emerging data.”
The guidance was enforced across several provinces including Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Prince Edward Island has banned AstraZeneca for anyone aged between 18 and 29.
The vaccine was now being administered to only those aged between 60 and 64.
AstraZeneca has dismissed the reports of blood clotting. It said in a statement that its AZD1222 has demonstrated 100 percent efficacy against severe COVID-19 infection and hospitalization.