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Canada paused use of the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on Monday for people under age 55 after concerns linked to rare blood clots, according to The Associated Press.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, the vaccine advisory group in Canada, recommended the pause for safety reasons.
“There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” Shelby Deeks, MD, vice chair of the committee, said during the announcement.
Deeks said the decision came after new data from Europe showed that the risk of blood clots could be higher than previously believed, potentially as high as 1 in 100,000 as compared to a risk of 1 in 1 million.
Most of the patients in Europe who developed a rare blood clot after an AstraZeneca dose were women under age 55, she added. The clot tends to occur between 4-20 days after vaccination.
“While we still believe the benefits for all ages outweigh the risks, I’m not comfortable with ‘probably,'” Joss Reimer, MD, of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said during the announcement.
“I want to see more data coming out of Europe so I know exactly what this risk-benefit analysis is,” she said.
Health Canada hasn’t received any reports of blood clots in Canada, AP reported. Supriya Sharma, MD, the chief medical adviser for Health Canada, said she still believes the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. Last week, the department changed the vaccine label to warn about the risk of a rare blood clot.
“Again, it’s a precautionary approach and we’ll move forward as we get more information,” she said during Monday’s announcement. “Really, this is the system working to look at these very rare events to assess them.”
So far, only those 60 and older have received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ontario, which is Canada’s most populous province.
“We have no concerns with those who have received it so far,” David Williams, MD, the chief medical officer in Ontario, told the AP.
Canada is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the U.S. on Wednesday. Canada received the first AstraZeneca shipment — about 500,000 doses from India — earlier this month. Health officials said those over age 55 who have a high risk of severe COVID-19 should consider getting the AstraZeneca shot if the other vaccines aren’t available to them.
Associated Press, “Canada pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for under 55.”
Public Health Agency of Canada, “Use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in younger adults.”
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