Oxford-AstraZeneca suspension doesn't mean vaccine is unsafe: N.S. top doctor

·2 min read

HALIFAX — Recent advice from Canada's expert vaccine panel against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on people under 55 doesn't mean those doses are unsafe, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer said Tuesday.

Dr. Robert Strang, however, said the province plans to wait for more information from the manufacturer to see if the benefits of using the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks.

"This change does not mean that the AstraZeneca vaccine isn't safe or isn't a good vaccine," Strang told reporters. "It means that we are seeing something rare in a certain subset of the population that we need to monitor and get more information about."

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization updated its stance on the vaccine Monday after rare cases of blood clots primarily in women under 55 were reported in Europe.

Strang said he understands the fear around the vaccine, but he expects the province will soon have more information to make more precise recommendations.

Residents aged 55 and over can still get the AstraZeneca vaccine in Nova Scotia, he said, adding that officials have been administering those doses to people aged 60 to 64. Nova Scotians in that age cohort should feel secure about the safety of that vaccine, Strang said, adding that residents with appointments to receive those doses should weigh their options: get the AstraZeneca vaccine now or wait longer to be vaccinated.

"You have to make a choice about how urgently you feel you want to be protected against COVID," he said. "If you have … the choice to get AstraZeneca very soon, or waiting a few weeks and getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines."

People who have received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the last 20 days and who receive it going forward should monitor for symptoms such as shortness of breath, leg swelling, persistent headaches and blurry vision, Strang said.

Officials may have to delay the vaccine rollout if evidence indicates the AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t safe, he added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press