Canadian health authorities are keeping a watchful eye on European investigations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots following inoculations, but say there is no evidence they were caused by the vaccine.
At least nine European countries hit pause on their use of AstraZeneca’s doses – some entirely, and others only on specific batches – pending further investigation of blood clots, though none suggested there is a link between the clots and getting the vaccine.
Canada’s first 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are being put to use just this week.
Health Canada said it authorized the vaccine based on a thorough, independent review of the evidence and determined that it meets Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements.
Health Canada said none of the identified batches under investigation have been shipped to Canada.
B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said officials have followed scrutiny of the vaccine and they haven’t seen any similar issues.
“We are watching this very carefully,” she told a news conference.
“It is something that is not unexpected when a new product, a new vaccine, is used in large numbers of people.”
The European Medicines Agency is probing the issue itself but says 30 blood clots in more than five million patients who received the vaccine is not out of step with the normal rate of blood clots in the general population.
This latest setback for AstraZeneca’s vaccine came just after concerns about its efficacy in seniors started to wane. Several European nations reversed earlier decisions not to give it to people over 65 because there weren’t enough seniors in the clinical trials.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended seniors be prioritized for the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which had more evidence of how they work on seniors.
The chair of the committee, Dr. Caroline Quach, told The Canadian Press the board met Wednesday to discuss newer evidence of how the AstraZeneca vaccine worked for seniors in “real-world” use, and expects an updated statement on the vaccine in Canada “in the next few days.”