Maritime researchers studying COVID-19 vaccine side-effects

Some Maritime researchers are helping to identify and deal with rare, but serious, side-effects that some people have after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and say their work should be reassuring, not unsettling to Canadians.

In an early morning news release Tuesday, the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group announced an investment of $800,000 for a study to further improve Canada's identification and response to adverse events people may experience following COVID-19 vaccination across 10 provinces.

This study is an extension of an existing vaccine safety program that provides important public health information about adverse events following immunization for all vaccines authorized for use in adults and children, according to the release.

"While the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination continue to outweigh the risks, when a patient develops an unexpected or serious adverse event that requires medical attention, it is important we determine the possible role of the vaccine and the safety of giving future vaccine doses to this specific person or to people with similar adverse events," explains Dr. Karina Top, principal investigator of the project and lead investigator of the Canadian Immunization Research Network's special immunization clinic network, which is conducting the study.

Serious side effects have been extremely rare, but the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to blood clots, while Pfizer and Moderna shots have been linked to inflammation of the heart.

Data for the study is coming from across 10 provinces.

About a 100 patients so far, and more referrals all the time.

"That's not say there's a safety issue," Top told CTV News.

"It's that we're vaccinating a lot of people in a short period of time."

While concerns about potential health impacts may have some avoiding the vaccine, experts say they shouldn't be worried.

"In fact, this should be very reassuring that the Canadian government takes vaccine safety as a very unimportant factor," said Dr. Scott Halperin the Director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology.

The sentiment is shared by Dal nursing student Jessica Noftall who got her second shot at a walk-in vaccine clinic in Halifax on Tuesday.

"My first dose was Pfizer. My shot today was Moderna.  I trust the Canadian rollout," she said. "I do think it's important to study, but I also believe in the instructions thus far."

Researchers say they'll share their results as quickly as possible with health authorities and healthcare providers.

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