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

President of the West Coast Fine Arts Show, Brian Croft, said pandemic restrictions necessitated a shift to an entirely online event this year, running until April 30. (File photo)
The West Fine Art Show shifts to an online-only event amid tighter health orders

Website version retains the flavour of the annual live exhibition

A vaccine-filled needle awaits injection, during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic held Jan. 15, 2021 at Amica White Rock. Community Living B.C.-funded workers learned April 8 that they, too, can now be vaccinated. (Tracy Holmes file photo)
Support workers for those with disabilities given vaccine priority

News shared with Community Living B.C.-funded staff on April 8

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

Scott Wheatley stands with the main Kenyan and Ugandan umpiring crew that he trained at the Nakirebe Complex outside of Kampala in 2020. Wheatley, a member-at-large with Softball B.C. is supporting a recent open letter from the sporting body that calls on the government to reinstate gameplay for kids in organized sports. (Photo: Submitted)
Softball B.C. urges provincial health officer to lift ban on gameplay for kids in organized sports

Sporting body sent open letter to both Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix

Surrey Fire Service is on scene of a fire in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue Saturday morning (April 10). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews on scene of house fire

It happened in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fraser Valley tulip attraction returns this weekend for 1 month

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

Most Read