New Brunswick reports second blood clot death linked to Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

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FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is reporting a second death in the province related to a rare blood-clotting event from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday the person in their 50s received their first dose of the vaccine on April 11, developed blood clot symptoms 17 days later and died recently.

Officials had previously reported the case and said the person was being treated in hospital. There have been four deaths reported in Canada from the condition known as vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, with the others in Quebec and Alberta.

"Out of the hundreds of thousands of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine administered as part of the country’s massive vaccination campaign, there will be rare cases where thrombosis will occur," Russell said. "However, the risks remain minimal compared to the risks, complications and potential consequences of COVID-19."

The Health Department announced Friday that anyone over the age of 55 in New Brunswick who received AstraZeneca as a first dose at least eight weeks ago is now eligible for a second shot of the vaccine. There is a limited supply, and Russell said she knows some people will prefer to get one of the mRNA vaccines, Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.

She said the province is still waiting for direction from the federal government on using another brand as a second dose.

Health officials reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the province Friday. Nine of the new cases were in the Fredericton region, which has almost half of the province's 127 active cases of the disease.

There have been a total of 45 cases linked to the Delta Hotel in Fredericton, which until recently had been used as an isolation hotel. Twelve of the cases are directly related to the hotel, while 33 people are listed as contacts or indirect contacts.

Officials believe transmission of the COVID-19 B.1.617 variant first reported in India, at the Delta and recently at Magee House residence at the University of New Brunswick, was a result of touching surfaces such as doorknobs.

Russell said Friday that doesn't change the public health advice for protecting against infection.

"There's not really a change in the different ways that we know that COVID can be transmitted, but I think what's different with the variants is that it's just exaggerated," she said. "What we're seeing is more transmission, so more close contacts are getting infected within households. If people have been in a certain area, not necessarily at the same time, and touched surfaces or been in a space where somebody else with COVID was, we saw transmission that way."

She said protective measures that worked before the variants emerged, such as hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces, using alcohol sanitizer, maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask, remain very important. "I think we have to be more aware of those types of things and be more conscientious of them," she said.

Russell said the Fredericton region is being kept at the yellow level of the province's COVID-19 response plan, but officials are asking the public to follow public health advice and avoid any unnecessary travel during the holiday long weekend.

New Brunswick has had 2,113 cases of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and seven people are in hospital. Two of those patients are in intensive care in the province, and one is in an out-of-province ICU.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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