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Did you get the AstraZeneca vaccine? Here's what you need to know – Vancouver Sun

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Here’s a primer that breaks down why B.C. is halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, but at the same time accelerating the vaccination of other age groups using this vaccine

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On Monday, B.C. announced it was suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people 55 and younger due to concerns over a “very rare” blood clot condition.

Here’s a primer that breaks down why B.C. is halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, but at the same time accelerating the vaccination of other age groups using this vaccine.

Q: I got the AstraZeneca vaccine. What should I do?

A: If it has been more than 20 days since you received your AstraZeneca vaccine, you don’t need to worry.

If it has been less than 20 days, monitor yourself for symptoms and if you develop the following symptoms starting four to 20 days after receiving your shot, go to the nearest emergency department:

  • Severe headache that does not go away
  • Seizure
  • Difficulty moving parts of your body
  • Blurry vision that does not go away
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • New severe swelling, pain, or colour change of an arm or a leg
  • Abnormal bruising, reddish or purple spots or blood blisters under the skin, or bleeding beyond the site of vaccination.

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For more information, visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control vaccine information page.

If you have side effects such as pain, redness, itchiness or swelling at the injection site; swollen lymph nodes under the arm pit; tiredness or headache; fever and chills; muscle and joint soreness; nausea and vomiting — these are common symptoms that could surface a day or two after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. These symptoms should go away on their own.

Q: Why is B.C. stopping the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for some people?

A: B.C. suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people 55 and younger on Monday, acting on a recommendation from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

This comes amid new data from Europe that suggests the risk of blood clots is now potentially as high as one in 100,000 compared to the one in one million risk previously believed.

Called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), these rare events have happened primarily among women under the age of 55, with a mortality rate of 40 per cent, although experts say that risk will be reduced if the condition is spotted and treated early.

There has been fewer than 30 cases identified around the world, primarily in Europe.

There has been no reports of blood clot incidents in people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine in B.C. or in Canada.

In the meantime, Health Canada has asked the drug maker to conduct a study on the risks and benefits of the vaccine across multiple age groups. NACI has recommended the shot be suspended for younger groups pending the outcome of the review.

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Q: Who has received the AstraZeneca shot in B. C.? 

A: In early March, B.C. said it will use around 68,000 doses of the vaccine to curb outbreaks and at high-risk workplaces, such as food processing, agriculture and large industrial camps.

The province then announced it planned to give priority to more than 300,000 front-line essential workers, including first responders, teachers, grocery store workers, and child care workers starting April. It is unclear how many of those workers can expect to get their shots.

Q: What’s the deal with the negative news surrounding AstraZeneca? 

A: The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved in Canada for adults on Feb. 26 under the brand names AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine and COVISHIELD Vaccine. 

From the start, it had to fight against a perception it’s a lower-tier drug because of lower efficacy results than its competitors. Trials showed the vaccine was 62 per cent effective against COVID-19 infections, but entirely prevented COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths.

Then there was confusion about whether the AstraZeneca vaccine was effective for seniors. NACI initially withheld its recommendation on the use of the vaccine for seniors, but later reversed its decision, citing new real-world evidence from the U.K. that showed the vaccine was effective. 

In mid-March, European health authorities suspended use of the vaccine following reports of blood clots from people who have received the vaccine. Canadian health officials assured the public the vaccine is safe, as the very small number of people who experienced blood clots isn’t out of step with the normal rate of blood clots in the general population.

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On March 24, Health Canada revised its label for the AstraZeneca vaccine to add information about the “very rare reports of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets.” It says the shot remains safe and the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks.

On March 29, NACI recommended against the use of the vaccine in people age 55 and younger. B.C. and other provinces suspended its use for this demographic.

Q: Is AstraZeneca safe? 

A: Health authorities maintain the vaccine is safe and effective.

On Tuesday, the provincial government announced it is moving up vaccine availability for people in the Lower Mainland ages 55 to 65. Starting Wednesday, eligible people will be able to call one of 150 pharmacies to make an appointment to receive an AstraZeneca shot. 

“We know from the millions of doses used worldwide, and especially in the U.K., it is highly effective and the benefits to those over age 55 far outweigh the very real risks of getting COVID-19,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry. “I encourage everyone in the Lower Mainland who is between 55 and 65 years of age to receive their safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine today.”

Q: Is this going to delay the vaccination schedule for younger people?

A: On Monday, B.C. Premier John Horgan said suspension of use of AstraZeneca among those 55 and younger does not impact the vaccination schedule in the age-based vaccination program.

Pfizer and BioNTech plans to move up delivery of five million doses of their mRNA vaccine to Canada in June. The first shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine are set to arrive at the end of April. It is not yet known how many doses are in the first shipment nor how many of those doses will be allocated to B.C.

chchan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/cherylchan

— with files from Postmedia News and Canadian Press

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CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28

* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO​>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd​, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc​, higher by 2.9%.

* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc​​, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc​, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc​, lower by 9.4%.

* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.

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Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets

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By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.

The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.

Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.

In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.

As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.

It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.

Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”

He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.

Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.

Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.

Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.

‘SIGNIFICANT LAYER OF INSURANCE’

The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.

The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.

“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.

The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.

Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”

Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”

Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.

But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.

($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry

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LONDON —
British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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