AstraZeneca News

Earlier today, provincial and federal officials announced a pause on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, specifically among those under the age of 55. This follows a long list of updates last week about this vaccine.

Here is what we know today: 

  • Manitoba and Health Canada officials are pausing the use of AstraZeneca in those under the age of 55 as a precautionary measure.”
  • This change responds to very rare reports in Europe about blood clots following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine, observed primarily among women under the age of 55. The condition is being called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia” or VIPIT.
  • The risk is very low, potentially occurring in one in 125,000 or one in a million people.
  • There have been no reports of blood clots in Manitoba or across Canada.
  • The vaccine can and should still be used with those age 55 and over.

The condition can emerge four to 20 days after vaccination. Public health officials are advising health care providers to be alert to the signs and symptoms of thromboembolism and thrombocytopeniain persons aged < 55 years following vaccination with AZ/COVISHIELD. This may include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling and persistent abdominal pain following vaccination. Additionally, be alert for neurological symptoms including sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision several days after vaccination, skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination) or petechiae starting a few days or more after vaccination. You can read more about the response precautionary move here:

If your patients are concerned, it’s important to reassure them that:

  • This change is a sign of just how cautious vaccine safety monitoring is. A very rare potential issue identified in another country has triggered a move here in Canada out of an abundance of caution.
  • This cautious approach is why AstraZeneca was initially recommended for those under age 65. That changes as more was learned and it was deemed effective for those over age 65 too.
  • Physicians and scientific experts are monitoring this situation closely. We have confidence in how vaccines are reviewed, approved and monitored in Canada.
  • To patients age 55 and over: the vaccine is still recommended for you and it is considered safe and effective. 

Public messaging is available through Manitoba Health and the Ontario Science Table. If you have doses left and cannot find enough priority 1 or 2 patients between ages 55 and 64, the province will now allow clinics to use the vaccine with patients age 65 and over, regardless of medical conditions.

More AstraZeneca doses coming soon

We also learned today that Manitoba will receive more AstraZeneca vaccine doses, likely later this week. Manitoba Health will notify clinics about their allotment. The doses will likely start to be available to the public next week.

This second shipment is expected to include 54,600 doses, three times as much as the first shipment used in the pilot. Additional doses are expected in early to mid April.We have raised concerns with provincial officials about providing as much notice as possible to clinics about the size of their vaccine allotment, to allow clinics time to plan and identify eligible patients.

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine or pandemic response, contact us at covid19@​doctorsmanitoba.​ca.

To view previous updates, click here.