Canada pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for under 55

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination on a table prior to Croatia's Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic being vaccinated, in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Admir Buljubasic/Pool via AP) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TORONTO, ONT – Canada on Monday suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people under age 55 following concerns it might be linked to rare blood clots.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization had recommended the pause for safety reasons and the Canadian provinces, which administer health in the country, announced the suspension Monday.

“There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” said Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Deeks said the updated recommendations come amid new data from Europe that suggests the risk of blood clots is now potentially as high as one in 100,000, much higher than the one in one million risk believed before.

She said most of the patients in Europe who developed a rare blood clot after vaccination with AstraZeneca were women under age 55, and the fatality rate among those who develop clots is as high as 40%.

Dr. Joss Reimer of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force said despite the finding that there was no increase risk of blood clots overall related to AstraZeneca in Europe, a rare but very serious side effect has been seen primarily in young women in Europe.

Reimer said the rare type of blood clot typically happens between four and 20 days after getting the shot and the symptoms can mirror a stroke or a heart attack.

“While we still believe the benefits for all ages outweigh the risks I’m not comfortable with probably. I want to see more data coming out of Europe so I know exactly what this risk benefit analysis is,” Reimer said.