'We are watching this very carefully': B.C. says EU investigation into AstraZeneca vaccine not affecting local rollout
VANCOUVER -- The decision from at least nine countries in the European Union to change or pause AstraZeneca vaccine rollouts due to a several cases involving recipients having blood clots will not affect the rollout in Canada or in B.C., at least for now.
Denmark is the latest country to put the vaccines on pause, after an undisclosed number of incidents were reported and one person died.
Millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have already been administered across the EU and the U.K.
There is no proven link between the vaccine and the blood clot cases, but the cause is under investigation.
Though not confirmed, there have been concerns the cases may be linked to a batch of doses manufactured in Europe.
However, Canada’s shipments from AstraZeneca, including B.C.’s first doses, which arrived Tuesday, are manufactured in India.
“We here in Canada don’t have concerns with the AstraZeneca we’re receiving,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu told CTV’s Evan Solomon on Thursday.
“Yes, we are watching this very carefully,” B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said of the EU investigation during a briefing Thursday.
“It is something that is not unexpected, when a new product, a new vaccine, is used in large numbers of people.”
She says given the doses in B.C. were manufactured in India, there is no need to dial back or change plans as the EU investigation unfolds.
“There are no safety signals associated with the product we have here but we will, of course, continue to monitor that very closely,” Henry added.
Based on the information from the EU, UBC Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Horacio Bach agrees with the decision to continue with the rollout.
“You can continue to vaccinate, I don’t think there will be any issues,” Bach told CTV News, noting the number of cases in the EU is very small.
“The numbers are so low. It may be related to that specific batch”
The province is still ironing out its bigger plans for its prioritized AstaZeneca recipients, but says the first limited doses that arrived this week will be targeted to several areas.
“That is around workplaces where we are seeing clusters and outbreaks and high-risk workplaces,” Henry said.
That may include places where people work close together, such as food processing facilities, industrial camps with group living, and farm operations where employees may live in crowded accommodations.
“These are the places where we know outbreaks right now are spilling over in to our community and causing clusters and outbreaks in other settings in the community, and homes and families,” Henry said.
She says pharmacists will be part of the rollout.
It’s expected the AstraZeneca vaccine will also be prioritized to frontline workers when vaccine deliveries pick up in the weeks ahead.
More information on the full priority rollout is expected to be released on or before March 18.