Responding to AstraZeneca fears, Arruda urges Quebecers to make decisions based on science

·3 min read
Responding to AstraZeneca fears, Arruda urges Quebecers to make decisions based on science
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said Quebecers should not refuse to take the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine as there is no proof it causes blood clots. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said Quebecers should not refuse to take the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine as there is no proof it causes blood clots. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, is urging Quebecers not to refuse the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, saying there is no scientific evidence that it poses a risk.

Nearly a dozen countries including Germany, France and Italy have all temporarily suspended their use of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine after reports some people who got a dose developed blood clots, even though there's no evidence that the shot was responsible.

AstraZeneca said there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the 27-country EU and Britain. The drugmaker said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of clots.

'Unless we get good scientific data, we will make our decisions based on rational things, not emotions.' - Dr. Horacio Arruda

However, news of the decision to suspend the vaccine has led to confusion and fear, with some people refusing to accept the AstraZeneca shot.

In the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, a spokesperson said Monday that 12 per cent of people refused the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, while in Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal eight per cent of people who signed up refused, according to authorities.

On Tuesday morning, Arruda told CBC's Daybreak "there is no proof of a causal relation" and that people cannot shop around to receive the brand of vaccine they want.

"The good vaccine is the one that is offered to you," he said.

Arruda said that people who refuse to take AstraZeneca-Oxford will be bumped to the back of the line and have to make another appointment.

He said the benefit of getting vaccinated by far outweighs any potential risk, especially when blood clots are a potential reaction to contracting the virus.

"The risk of dying from COVID-19 is greater than the risk of the vaccine," said Arruda.

If solid information comes to light that there are negative side effects associated with any of the vaccines, Arruda said Quebec will act. But for now, no such data exists.

"Unless we get good scientific data, we will make our decisions based on rational things, not emotions."

He added that "the best way to attack fear is to get the good information."

WATCH | President of Quebec's immunization committee weighs in on AstraZeneca-Oxford:

Race-based data not necessary, Arruda says

When asked about why the province isn't collecting race-based data about COVID-19 cases, Arruda said that the government "is able to identify factors of risk without collecting this kind of information."

He said Montreal Public Health knows which communities are being heavily impacted and can adapt its intervention accordingly.

Arruda also took the opportunity to issue a reminder to people that even after they are vaccinated, they still need to follow public health rules to help reduce transmission.

He said as he understands people are exhausted but when it comes to reopening, "the only way to go is slowly but safely."

As Ontario enters what could be a third wave, Arruda said Quebec is also preparing for the worst and keeping a close eye on the spread of COVID-19 variants, especially in Montreal.

He added that with things like gyms and spas reopening in red zones, now is not the time to party.