An increasing number of Canadian provinces say they’ll be suspending the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for young people.
P.E.I. was the first region to announce the update on March 29, with the province making moves to cancel appointments for this vaccine for eligible people aged between 18 and 29.
Shortly after, Quebec officials also announced that it would temporarily stop administering the vaccine to those under the age of 55.
Manitoba shared a similar update on the same day, with one official suggesting to CBC News that the change was made following reports of blood clots post-vaccination in Europe.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also acknowledged concerns about the vaccine on Monday, reassuring Ontarians that he "won't hesitate to cancel [the AstraZeneca vaccine] in half a heartbeat if it's going to put anyone in harm."
What has the NACI said?
Reports suggest that Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make a recommendation today related to Canada’s distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The committee is expected to advise Canadian provinces and territories to suspend distribution of the vaccine among those under the age of 55.
The decision to follow this advice or not will be down to provincial public health authorities.
While details are yet to be confirmed, the suggested suspension is believed to be related to “safety concerns.”
What about Health Canada?
Previously, Health Canada stated on multiple occasions that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective.
It’s a message that was backed up by the prime minister, too.
However, in a statement on March 29, the agency said it will be “issuing additional terms and conditions on the authorizations of the AstraZeneca and Verity Pharmaceuticals/Serum Institute of India vaccines.”
“These will include a requirement that the manufacturers conduct a detailed assessment of the benefits and risks of the vaccine by age and sex in the Canadian context.”
The agency acknowledged the “rare blood clotting events” that have been reported elsewhere in the world and said it will work to determine if there are particular groups who may be at higher risk.
Recently, the government agency updated the vaccine’s label to include information about possible blood clots as a rare side effect.
Health Canada says the agency has not received any reports of these "very rare events."
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