Canadian health authorities are keeping a watchful eye on European investigations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots following inoculations, but say there is no evidence they were caused by the vaccine.
At least nine European countries hit pause on their use of AstraZeneca’s doses — some entirely, and others only on specific batches — pending further investigation of blood clots, though none suggested there is a link between the clots and getting the vaccine.
Canada’s first 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are being put to use just this week, and officials in several provinces said Thursday they don’t intend to stop the rollout.
“At this time, we have no information to suggest that this vaccine poses more risks than any other,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of public health in Quebec.
Carlo Mastrangelo, the head of corporate affairs, communications and sustainability at AstraZeneca Canada, said the company has completed a new safety review of 10 million patients who received the vaccine. He said it uncovered “no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country” with its COVID-19 vaccine.
“In fact, the observed number of these types of events are significantly lower in those vaccinated than what would be expected among the general population,” said Mastrangelo.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, said he has been inundated with calls from family doctors who are supposed to start inoculating patients this weekend, wondering if there was reason to be concerned.
Chagla said he will give the vaccine to patients this weekend as planned, because he trusts that Health Canada, which is constantly monitoring safety reports, would step in if there was any concern.
“Health Canada, they are working 24-7,” he said. “Their role is if there’s anything that goes on, you know that they essentially put a halt to it.”
Health authorities in Denmark, which halted AstraZeneca vaccinations Thursday after an undisclosed number of blood clots were reported, and one patient died, said they stopped using the vaccine to be extra cautious, not because there was an expected connection.
The European Medicines Agency is probing the issue itself but says 30 blood clots in more than five million patients who received the vaccine is not out of step with the normal rate of blood clots in the general population.
Chagla said the normal incidence of blood clots is about one in 1,000 patients over the course of a year. When vaccinating millions of people, it is not unusual to see some of them develop blood clots.
The question is whether they could have had the clot without the vaccine. Chagla said these kind of investigations are totally normal in the rollout of any new pharmaceutical.
“This is what I think the European Union is going through,” he said. “Now they’re trying to say, ‘Hey, is this an issue with the vaccine or are these people that we’re just going to have blood clots regardless?’ And you know, if it was the same thing as being struck by lightning, we would very easily say, ‘Well, OK, the vaccine has nothing to do with people being struck by lightning.”‘
Chagla said if a link is found, it may also be specific to one batch of the vaccine, which also has to be examined. Canada’s doses, he noted, are currently coming from the Serum Institute of India, while Europe is getting its doses from facilities there.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said on Twitter that the blood clots are “extremely rare events in an area that is using a lot of this vaccine.”
“There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these events and the actions these countries have taken is out of an abundance of caution,” she said. “We will continue watching closely and monitoring every dose of the vaccine in Alberta.”
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province won’t discontinue AstraZeneca but is working with Health Canada to follow the evidence.
“We are continuing with our AstraZeneca inoculations and we know that several million doses have already been administered around the world with no adverse effects,” she said.
This latest setback for AstraZeneca’s vaccine came just after concerns about its efficacy in seniors started to wane. Several European nations reversed earlier decisions not to give it to people over 65 because there weren’t enough seniors in the clinical trials.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended seniors be prioritized for the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which had more evidence of how they work on seniors.
The chair of the committee, Dr. Caroline Quach, told The Canadian Press the board met Wednesday to discuss newer evidence of how the AstraZeneca vaccine worked for seniors in “real-world” use, and expects an updated statement on the vaccine in Canada “in the next few days.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.
With files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal and Shawn Jeffords in Toronto.
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13 more die of COVID-19 in B.C. as 667 new cases confirmed – CBC.ca
British Columbia announced 667 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths on Friday, the most deaths in one day since Feb. 3.
In a written statement, the provincial government said there are currently 5,128 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.
A total of 367 people are in hospital, with 152 in intensive care.
Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 1.9 per cent from last Friday, when 360 people were in hospital with the disease and about 27 per cent from a month ago when 288 people were in hospital.
The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 11 per cent from 137 a week ago and by the same percentage from a month ago when 137 people were also in the ICU.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,055 lives lost out of 196,433 confirmed cases to date.
As of Friday, 89 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent a second dose.
So far, eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 3.8 million second doses.
There are a total of 19 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term and acute care. There has been one new outbreak at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. The outbreak at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre has been declared over.
The acute care hospitals currently affected by COVID outbreaks are Mission Memorial Hospital, University Hospital of Northern B.C., GR Baker Memorial Hospital, and Tofino General Hospital.
More than 90 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and three people have died as a result of an outbreak at a care home in Burnaby, and officials say the death toll is expected to grow.
The majority of cases at the Willingdon Care Centre are among residents, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday he expects the number of deaths will rise to 10 over the next several days due to a delay in data reporting.
New northern restrictions
More restrictions for the northern part of the province came into effect Thursday at midnight and will last until at least Nov. 19 in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
Restrictions in the region now include limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to fully vaccinated people only, capping the number of people who can gather in any setting, moving worship services online, cutting off alcohol sales earlier at night and mandating masks and safety plans at organized events.
Health officials are strongly recommending people stay in their community unless it is essential for work or medical reasons.
To help reduce hospitalizations, new orders for <a href=”https://twitter.com/Northern_Health?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Northern_Health</a> (specific areas only) will come into effect Oct 14 at midnight. Help keep your community safe – get vaccinated today.<br><br>Find a clinic: <a href=”https://t.co/vp7cpfUzcj”>https://t.co/vp7cpfUzcj</a><br>Learn more about the orders: <a href=”https://t.co/8Rz6gITRYu”>https://t.co/8Rz6gITRYu</a>
Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry continues to reiterate the importance of immunization to reduce the risk of illness and death due to COVID-19.
From Oct. 7 to 13, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 68.3 per cent of cases and from Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, they accounted for 76.3 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.
Anyone who has not yet received a shot is encouraged to do so immediately. Appointments can be made online through the Get Vaccinated portal, by calling 1-833-838-2323, or in-person at any Service B.C. location.
People can also be immunized at walk-in clinics throughout the province.
B.C. health officials are awaiting a federal review of COVID-19 vaccines for five- to 11-year-olds and are encouraging families to register their children now as they anticipate doses being available for this group by early November.
U.S. border town welcomes back fully vaccinated B.C. visitors, but travel hurdles remain – CBC.ca
Businesses in northern Washington state are welcoming back Canadian customers once the United States reopens its land borders, but a B.C. mayor says travellers may face hurdles.
The U.S. is allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada to enter the United States by air, land and ferry for non-essential travel starting Nov. 8.
Those entering the U.S. at a land border will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. Land travellers do not need to show a negative COVID-19 test, a requirement for air travellers.
Karen Frisbie, Chamber of Commerce president in Oroville, Wash. — a town of more than 19,000 residents bordering Osoyoos in B.C.’s South Okanagan — says her community has been quiet without Canadians travelling south to shop during the pandemic.
“We definitely miss our Canadian neighbours and look forward to having them back,” Frisbie said Friday to host Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South.
Many border towns in Washington state struggled due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing Canadians from travelling across the border. The city of Blaine, for instance, said last August their finances were hit hard after several months without Canadian visitors.
Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff says she can feel the happiness of Canadians who know they’ll be able to visit Oroville.
“A lot of the people in Osoyoos love to go to Oroville — they have their special places [and] restaurants [in Oroville], and they love to go down there for American milk and cheese and beer, and gas sometimes,” McKortoff said on Daybreak South.
But the mayor also strikes a cautious note.
“You still need a PCR test to come back to Canada,” she said, referring to a type of molecular testing. Molecular COVID-19 tests involve methods such a nose swab, or providing a saliva sample.
“You’re not going to go down there for a day, and [you] have to worry about having a PCR test in order to get back through the border.”
Canada still requires arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their entry to Canada, regardless of their point of entry — but labs could take more than 72 hours to issue a test result.
“We need to wait until all of those things have been solved a little bit better before people will even take the chance to go across,” McKortoff said.
LISTEN | Karen Frisbie and Sue McKortoff share their hopes and concerns about U.S. border reopening to Canadians:
Daybreak South5:24What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities.
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