New Brunswick is joining a growing list of Canadian provinces to pause the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for first doses.
During a news briefing Thursday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said New Brunswick will, however, be accepting 13,500 doses of AstraZeneca next week and will be using it for second doses.
It will also be an option for people 55 and older who are homebound and cannot access other vaccines because they cannot be transported to homes. This is only done with the informed consent of the person.
Two additional cases of vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT), the rare blood clot connected with AstraZeneca, have been confirmed in the province — for a total of four cases.
The new cases are both in their fifties and received their vaccinations in mid-April. They developed symptoms of the blood clot 11 and 19 days after vaccination. One of the patients is currently in hospital for treatment.
Last week, the province announced one person in their 60s died as a result of the blood clot.
Russell says she realizes that New Brunswick’s approach with AstraZeneca may differ slightly from other provinces, but points out the vaccine has been approved by Health Canada and is being used around the world — specifically in the U.K., which has used it almost exclusively.
She notes that the global frequency of VITT remains low and has been estimated at about one case in 55,000 to one case in 100,000 doses of vaccine.
“There are risks with this product but there are also benefits when it is used properly,” she said.
“In our judgement, we really must employ every tool at our disposal.”