B.C. premier has 'no hesitation whatsoever' about AstraZeneca vaccine following report of first Canadian blood clot

Canada has now had its first reported case of a blood clot following an AstraZeneca vaccination in Quebec. The woman, whose age has not been released, is said to be recovering at home.

She received a dose of Covishield, which is a version of the vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. Just over 478,000 people across the country had received one dose of Astra Zeneca as of April 3rd.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada said this type of adverse event is “very rare," and added the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks. The case will be taken into account as part of the federal government’s ongoing safety review of the vaccine. Until the assessment is complete, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is only recommending the Astra Zeneca vaccine for people aged 55 and up for the time being.

In B.C., the planned use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for frontline priority workers remains paused, however the vaccine is available by appointment to those aged 55 and up in more than 600 pharmacies throughout the province.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in BC is “going very well," and added all the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the province are “some of the best vaccines we’ve ever seen."

“I’ve talked to pharmacists through the weekend and this week and the uptake is significant,” Dix said. “I would encourage everybody over 55, who’s waiting more than a couple of weeks for their Pfizer, Moderna vaccine, to go get the AstraZeneca if they can.”

An Angus Reid survey released Monday found 41 per cent of respondents would be comfortable with receiving an AstraZeneca vaccine. Meanwhile, 23 per cent said they would reject that particular vaccine if it were offered to them, and two in five women over the age of 34 who responded said they are “extremely uncomfortable” with the idea of receiving AstraZeneca. The online survey of 1,577 adults was conducted between April 5 to 8.

When asked about concerns regarding vaccine hesitancy in relation to AstraZeneca, Premier John Horgan said “that, quite frankly, hasn’t appeared” in B.C.

“As we received AstraZeneca, it’s disappeared into the arms of British Columbians,” he said. “The advice I’ve been given today is that you should take the first vaccine that’s offered to you because it’s in the interest of not just yourself, but your neighbours, your family, and your community.”

Horgan added he would get the AstraZeneca shot “in a minute” to demonstrate his confidence in the vaccine, if that’s what was recommended by health officials.

“I would have no hesitation whatsoever,” he said.

Horacia Bach, UBC adjunct professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, said the rare adverse events need to be put into context, considering how many more people are vaccinated safely.

"With any treatment or medicine people are taking, you have side effects that sometimes, you know, are very rare but they happen," he said. "It's very, very low."

Bach said public health should also share information about the cases as they learn more.

"If they were under a medication, some people use blood thinner because they have specific issues, or background diseases," he said. "I think without that, the hesitancy of people will grow."

Johnson and Johnson on pause in U.S.

Health Canada is also monitoring a decision in the United States to pause the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, following six reported cases of blood clots out of more than 6.8 million doses given out.

The cases have all been in women between the ages of 18 and 48 years old.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been approved for use in Canada since early March, but doses have not yet arrived. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the first shipment is expected at the end of this month.

“But obviously, we’re following closely developments in the United States,” he said. “We can assure everyone that Health Canada will, every step of the way, put the health of Canadians first and foremost in any decisions we make around distributing vaccines.”