Canada suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine in people under 55

“You cannot ignore the blood clots that have been associated with AstraZeneca globally,” says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. 

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending immediately suspending the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in Canadians under 55 following reports of rare but potentially fatal blood clots. Reported cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), a rare blood clotting disorder that appear to be connected to the vaccine have emerged in Europe. While there are no reported cases of rare blood clots after vaccinations in Canada, Health Canada still assessing the risk.

Health Canada said Monday that 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered and no cases of the rare blood clotting adverse events have been reported in Canada but that it was aware of additional cases that have recently been reported in Europe. Following the recommendation, several provinces announced they would follow the guidance, including Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. According to NACI, cases have been identified primarily in women under the age of 55, though cases have been reported in men as well.

VIPIT is a condition that refers to blood clots — including blood clots in the brain — stemming from receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Symptoms include serious headache, seizure, blurred vision and shortness of breath and tend to develop between four and 16 days after receiving the vaccine.

“The exact mechanism by which the AstraZeneca vaccine triggers that is still under investigation and no other risk factors have been consistently identified in patients who develop VIPIT,” Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the NACI, said in the briefing.

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