Stephen: AstraZeneca vaccine suspended effective immediately for those under 55

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Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has announced that Public Health will suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under the age of 55, due to a link between it and VIPID, a disorder which causes blood clots. 4000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the province and information will be distributed to those people in time. First responders who have signed up for their first dose of vaccine will be uneffected. Risk of adverse effects are rare and no cases of blood clotting due to the AstraZeneca vaccine have been reported in the province. Those over the age of 55 can still safely receive the vaccine.

 

Public advisory:

Effective immediately, provincial public health officials are advising that the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be paused for adults under age 55. This decision is based on new guidelines from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which sites European reports of rare instances of pro-thrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) in people four to 20 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

 

People who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine within the last 20 days, should seek immediate medical attention in the rare event that you develop symptoms starting four days or more after vaccination, including:

 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination)

 

There is no need for concern for any person who received the AstraZeneca vaccine more than 20 days ago.

 

In Newfoundland and Labrador, approximately 4,600 individuals have received their first dose using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Representatives from regional health authorities will contact affected individuals directly. If anyone who has received AstraZeneca has questions or concerns, they should call 811.

 

Health Canada has stated that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to be safe and effective at protecting Canadians against COVID-19 and encourages people to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in Canada.

 

Adults 55 years of age and older may still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine, given the increased risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 in this population.

 

People are encouraged to visit www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/vaccine/ to get the facts on the vaccine and the changes being announced today. A backgrounder with questions and answers on AstraZeneca is below.

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Media contact
Lesley Clarke

Health and Community Services

709-729-6986, 699-2910

lesleyclarke@gov.nl.ca

 

BACKGROUNDER

 

Questions and Answers

 

Should people who have received the vaccine be concerned?

 

Vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia is very rare. To date, there have been no cases of vaccine-induced thrombosis associated with the use of this vaccine in Canada. At this time, we do not know if certain patients are more likely to get VIPIT. So far, most of the cases from Europe have occurred in women under age 55 – but many of these countries used more of their initial AstraZeneca vaccine supply in women under age 55. We do not believe that VIPIT is more common in people who have had blood clots before, people with a family history of blood clots, people with a low platelets, or pregnant women, because VIPIT does not develop through the same process as usual types of bleeding or clotting problems.

 

Should someone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine call their doctor?

 

You should speak to a health care professional if you have unusual or severe symptoms after any COVID-19 vaccine. In the rare event that you develop symptoms starting four to 20 days after vaccination, those who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca should seek immediate medical attention. Based on current evidence, for those individuals who have already been vaccinated with AstraZeneca more than 20 days ago there is no cause for concern.

 

What should you do if you have concerning symptoms after the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

 

You should speak to a health care professional if you have unusual or severe symptoms after any COVID-19 vaccine. If your symptoms are not severe, you can see (virtually or in-person) your primary care professional. If you have severe symptoms, you should go to the nearest emergency department immediately. You should tell the health care providers who see you that you received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and give them the date you got vaccinated. If the healthcare professional who assesses you is concerned, you may have scans and additional bloodwork collected.

 

Do healthcare professionals know how to diagnose and treat vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia?

 

Yes. Health care professionals and scientists in Newfoundland and Labrador have been working with experts in Canada, and around the world, to better understand vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia. Public Health has summarized what we know about VIPIT right now and has published guides for healthcare professionals outside and inside the hospital, to help them diagnose and treat VIPIT.

 

What do we know so far?

 

The United Kingdom, European Union, and Scandinavian countries have reported that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine appears to be associated with rare cases of serious blood clots, including blood clots in the brain. These blood clots have two important features: they occur 4 to 20 days after vaccination, and they are associated with low platelets (tiny blood cells that help form blood clots to stop bleeding). Doctors are calling this “vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia” (VIPIT). VIPIT seems to be rare, occurring in anywhere from 1 in every 125,000 to 1 in 1 million people.

 

Health Canada has stated that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to be safe and effective at protecting Canadians against COVID-19 and encourages people to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in Canada.

 

Will those who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca receive a second dose?

 

Decisions on the type of second dose that will be offered to those who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccine will be determined based on the latest evidence and research. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will review evidence as it emerges to provide advice to public health programs on the potential for completing the vaccine series with other vaccine products. For now, you do not need a second dose for up to 16 weeks from your first dose.

 

Why is Newfoundland and Labrador still using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

 

Health Canada reviewed the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine, as well as a similar vaccine called COVISHIELD. They have stated that the benefits in protecting Canadians from COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks and encourage Canadians to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in Canada when they are eligible. Keep in mind that COVID-19 has killed over 22,000 Canadians so far, that about 1 in 100 Canadians who get COVID-19 end up needing intensive care, and that 1 in 5 Canadians who are hospitalized with COVID-19 develop blood clots. Currently Canada is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19. Vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia is very rare, while the AstraZeneca vaccine has proven effective at reducing severe illness from COVID-19. Health care professionals, scientists, and government agencies in Canada – and around the world – will continue to monitor the safety of this and all vaccines.

 

Could other COVID-19 vaccines available in Newfoundland and Labrador cause vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia?

 

There have been no confirmed cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia with any other COVID-19 vaccine.

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