Nearly 1,700 Islanders who've had AstraZeneca should monitor for symptoms, but risk remains 'very low'

·2 min read
Dr. Heather Morrison says she hopes suspending the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine will not deter Islanders from receiving a vaccine.  (CBC - image credit)
Dr. Heather Morrison says she hopes suspending the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine will not deter Islanders from receiving a vaccine. (CBC - image credit)

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer is urging Islanders to continue being eager and enthusiastic about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine despite a decision to halt all use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in the province.

Dr. Heather Morrsion made the announcement during an unscheduled briefing on Monday.

"We acted quickly knowing that a national recommendation was forthcoming," Morrison said. "To the individuals who received this vaccine, I'd like to let you know that the risk of developing a serious problem after being immunized is very, very low."

The province has administered 1,680 doses out of the 21,712 the province has received.

Morrison said the vaccine has been linked to blood clots known as VIPIT (vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia) in some immunized patients. However, so far, Morrison said there have been no cases reported on P.E.I. or in Canada.

She said any Islanders who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine and develop these symptoms four to 20 days after getting vaccinated should immediately seek medical attention:

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Chest pain.

  • Leg swelling.

  • Persistent abdominal pain.

  • Sudden onset of severe or persistent headache or blurred vision.

  • Skin bruising other than at the site of vaccination.

AstraZeneca pause will 'slow down' rollout

Islanders 18 to 29 began receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine last week. The response was so positive some pharmacies ran short on supply.

With AstraZeneca paused, the province's vaccine rollout will shift, Morrison said.

'What is being referred to is a very rare event but serious event, and that's why we need to take these precautionary measures,' Dr. Morrison says.
'What is being referred to is a very rare event but serious event, and that's why we need to take these precautionary measures,' Dr. Morrison says.(Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

"This pause will slow down our vaccine rollout plan," Morrison said. "However, we remain on track to give all eligible Islanders over the age of 16 a single dose by the end of June."

Morrison also said P.E.I. will have enough Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to give all Islanders two doses by the fall.

The province is still anticipating another shipment of AstraZeneca in the next two weeks.

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending provinces pause the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on those under the age of 55 because of safety concerns — guidance most provinces said Monday that they would follow.

The change comes following reports out of Europe of very rare instances of blood clots in some immunized patients — notably among younger women.

Morrison said she hopes this news doesn't deter people from getting a vaccine.

"We know there are so many doses of this vaccine being administered," she said. "What is being referred to is a very rare event but serious event, and that's why we need to take these precautionary measures."

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