P.E.I. suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for those younger than 55
HALIFAX -- The province of Prince Edward Island has suspended use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people under the age of 55.
On Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended pausing administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 55, pending further investigation on reported cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), a rare blood clotting disorder, in Europe.
In a live COVID-19 update that afternoon, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison announced the province would hault AstraZeneca doses for that age group as well.
“The risk of developing a health problem after being immunized is very low and serious side effects are extremely rare. We take vaccine safety very seriously and believe this is the right decision at this time,” said Dr. Morrison. “The vaccine remains an important layer of protection against this virus and I urge all Islanders to continue to be eager and enthusiastic to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
"This pause will allow the manufacturer to conduct a detailed assessment of the benefits and risk of the vaccine by age and gender in the Canadian context, its information along with further international evidence will be used to determine if additional regulatory actions are necessary," Morrison added.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King added assurance to those who have already received the AstraZeneca vaccine on the island.
"For those Islanders who have been vaccinated, to date using AstraZeneca, 1680 of them. I understand this news would be a little bit disturbing to hear this," said King. "But, I do want to reiterate and Dr. Morrison will further reiterate that the risk of developing a serious problem after being immunized is very very low. To date there have been no reported cases of any of these issues in P.E.I., or Canada."
King says all islanders will still be able to receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June.
Last Tuesday, Health Canada said the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe and will continue to be recommended for use despite criticism from U.S. health officials of the drugmaker's analysis of the shot's efficacy, health officials said.
"The message is that the efficacy and the safety of the vaccine have been shown," senior Health Canada official Marc Berthiaume told reporters on March 23. "It continues to be beneficial for Canadians to prevent COVID-19."
In early March, Denmark and other European countries suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots. Norway and Sweden also have paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Also on Tuesday, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief medical officer said most of the 2,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine received on the island had been administered to people 18-29 working in the service industry, and reaffirmed Health Canada’s stance on the Astrazeneca vaccine, saying it is safe and effective, and encouraging any islanders who are offered it, to take it.
"I ask employers and business owners in these areas to encourage their staff age 18-29 to be immunized," said Morrison on March 23. "And, if possible, please offer to assist with transportation and eliminating any other barriers that may be preventing staff from being vaccinated."
The province had expanded the AstraZeneca eligibility to any 18-29 year olds who cannot work virtually. Initially the vaccines were opened to 18-29 year olds who work in the food and beverage sector.
Prince Edward Island currently has 11 active cases of COVID-19 and has had 156 positive cases since the start of the pandemic.