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

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society runs a museum that was established to display the heritage of the "no-longer towns" of Michel and Natal, and the Elk Valley Area. Photo Submitted/Monica Beranek, Artifact Curator
Sparwood to support museum financially through to December 2022

The district will provide financial support for the museum to hire a full-time director

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Most Read