'They made the right choice': WECHU reassures residents who received AstraZeneca shots

Windsor’s top doctor is reassuring residents who received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says about 37,071 people have received the AstraZeneca shot in Windsor-Essex and they made the right choice at the time.

“I think they made the right choice by getting the first vaccine available to them,” says Ahmed. “When you have that high number of cases in the community you definitely want to protect yourself by getting the first dose that’s available to you.”

Ahmed says there are different levels of risks involved with many types of medication.

He says they will continue to share new information on the second dose as it becomes available.

“We will continue to look at the evidence,” says Ahmed. “We will continue to find the best way to vaccinate our residents that is safe and that is effective to prevent any complications associated with COVID.

Ontario announced Tuesday that officials have paused giving more AstraZeneca first doses due to a small risk of a rare blood-clotting syndrome. Experts believe the risk of the rare blood clot to be one in every 60,000 vaccines issued.

Ahmed added that health unit CEO Theresa Marentette was one of the residents who got the shot.

“Even Theresa, she got the AstraZeneca and she’s fine with the decision,” says Ahmed.

People who got the shot at the first opportunity have mixed feelings.

“Obviously whatever specifically is happening — it was enough to raise alarms bells for them to discontinue its use,” says Douglas Weeks, a Windsor resident who was among the first in the region to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in early March.

“I’d rather that they take that time then rush,” he says, alluding to a study out of the United Kingdom which is looking at the second doses of AstraZeneca versus a different vaccine.

“Data out of the UK shows a dramatically reduced risk of the adverse reaction called VITT in second doses of AstraZeneca,” says Ontario health minister Christine Elliott. “We are also seeing positive results of administering a second dose of a different vaccine. We look forward to providing more guidance shortly.”

Windsor resident Frank Harshaw says he has no regrets over getting the shot.

“I’m not worried about it. I trust our health professionals. They’re the smartest people in the country,” says Harshaw, who got the AZ jab on March 12. If they say I should get the shot, I get the shot. If they say I should wait a bit, I’ll wait a bit. I’m not a second guesser.”

A quarter-million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are expected in Ontario next week.

The province says they will be used to provide second shots to those who've already had one, although the timing of that is to be determined.

Local pharmacies will have to separate the AstraZeneca vaccine and wait for specific guidance on what to do with it.

“They will be provided with additional instruction to send it back or store it,” says Ahmed.

Tim Brady, who owns Brady’s Drug Store in Essex and Belle River, says he’s already given out 2,000 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. On Wednesday, he had to cancel 17 appointments on advice from the province.

“The people did the right thing for getting the shot. As the information changes, we’re constantly changing,” says Brady.

But he reaffirmed the position that the shot has strong efficacy and has a minimal risk, when compared to other medicines we use.

“If you are someone who got AZ, if we happen to get AZ in, I suspect we will only be using it for second shots,” says Brady. “If that’s the case, if you didn’t get a clot the first time, I would say you’re safe to get the second shot.”

With files from The Canadian Press.