Canada pausing use of AstraZeneca vaccine for those below 55 | Coronavirus pandemic News


Health officials cite ‘substantial uncertainty’ around rare blood clots and say a risk assessment is under way.

Canada is pausing the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for adults below age 55, a top public health officer said on Monday, after an advisory panel cited “substantial uncertainty” around the potential risk of developing rare blood clots.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization earlier recommended a pause in the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Canadians in that age group.

“We are acting decisively with our unified position to pause the use of AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada in those under age 55 at this time,” Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Howard Njoo, told reporters on Monday afternoon.

“We are taking this precautionary measure while Health Canada, as the regulator, completes its updated risk-benefit analysis based on emerging data.”

Njoo said Canada has other vaccine options to inoculate its population in the meantime.

“Adults 55 years of age and older may still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine given the increased risk of hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19 in this population and since VIPIT reports have been even rarer in that age group,” he added.

Several countries, mostly in Europe, have temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears it might have caused some recipients to develop blood clots.

The British-Swedish multinational, European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have sought to assure people that the vaccine is safe and that its benefits far outweigh the risks.

Last week, Health Canada also sought to reassure Canadians, saying the AstraZeneca vaccine “continues to be safe and effective” and encouraging people to get inoculated with any of the vaccines authorised for use in the country.

On Monday afternoon, the province of Quebec announced that it would temporarily suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people below 55 “until expert assessments are completed”.

Prince Edward Island, on Canada’s east coast, also said it would pause the vaccine’s use.

Canada’s drug regulator approved AstraZeneca in late February, as the government sought to boost its vaccination campaign.

The country is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine from the United States on Tuesday, Canadian media have reported.

Health Canada said earlier on Monday that it also would require AstraZeneca to provide “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,” it said in a statement.

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