Despite new evidence pointing to a “stronger link” to blood clots Health Canada will not be changing its recommendations for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the agency’s chief medical adviser said on Wednesday.
“Get whatever vaccine is available to you. It’s that simple. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the longer you’re not protected,” Dr Supriya Sharma said at a technical briefing. “We know the risks of getting these side effects from the vaccine are very rare.”
“We didn’t find any specific risk factors, such as age or sex, so we are therefore not requiring that the vaccine label be updated to restrict the use of the vaccine at this time,” Sharma added.
The news comes one day after provincial health authorities in Quebec reported that a woman had developed a blood clot shortly after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine — the first such report in Canada. The woman, who was not named, is recovering at home.
With regards to the new evidence, she reiterated that Health Canada has updated warnings on the vaccine’s label “so that Canadians can be informed of the side effects.”
Health Canada has not definitively associated the AstraZeneca vaccine with these clots. After completing a safety review, Health Canada concluded the adverse events were “possibly linked to the use of the vaccine”. Sharma said this assessment was “consistent” with other international regulators, adding that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) would be meeting again to discuss the vaccine’s age recommendations.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks, following several reports of people being hospitalized with blood clots shortly after being immunized.
On Wednesday, Denmark became the first country in the world to stop using the vaccine completely.
Pointing to evidence from the U.K., where the AstraZeneca shot has been administered 20 million times, Sharma said the chance of developing these clots is roughly 1 in 250,000.
“The risk of regular clots with COVID is much, much higher and it’s much, much higher than having this very severe clot,” she added.
As of April 3 Canada had administered more than 484,000 doses of the AstraZeneca and CoviShield vaccines, according to Sharma.
Health Canada’s chief medical adviser reassured Canadians that the agency won’t hesitate to rescind AstraZeneca’s authorization if regulators conclude at any time that the risks of the vaccine outweigh its benefits.