Canada confirms 1st case of rare blood clot after AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

The first confirmed case of a condition that causes rare but potentially fatal blood clots has been recorded in Canada in connection with the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine.

Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services confirmed a person in the province had a case of the clotting condition known as vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT).

The ministry didn’t confirm the age or gender of the person, but Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé later identified the individual as a woman. 

“The good news is, the woman in question was taken care of and she’s doing well,” he said during a press conference Tuesday. 

Dubé said the province is taking a “hypervigilant” approach and keeping a close eye on any adverse reactions related to the vaccine. He said this was a possibility that health officials “expected” and prepared for.  

“We have been very transparent that there could be one case per 100,000,” he said. “We knew this could happen.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement Tuesday that an individual living in Quebec had been identified as the country’s first case after receiving the shot and that the person is now at home recovering. 

PHAC declined to provide further details on the person’s age, the time frame in which the person got the shot or whether in involved a first or second dose of the vaccine.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) previously recommended suspending the use of the vaccine in Canadians under the age of 55 last month following reports of rare but potentially fatal blood clots in Europe.

Health Canada said on March 29 that 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered and that no cases of the rare blood clotting adverse events had been reported in the country.

NACI Chair Dr. Caroline Quach said last month that the risk of rare blood clots appears to only occur in younger populations, which is why the committee recommended suspending the vaccine in those under 55.

Every province and territory in Canada then moved to suspend the use of the vaccine in Canadians under 55 until more information was known about the condition and its connection to the vaccine. 

WATCH | Update on the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots:

Canada’s chief public health officer spoke with reporters during the regular Tuesday pandemic briefing in Ottawa. 1:54

Quach added last month that the vaccine works well in preventing severe outcomes and death in older populations over 55, particularly in those over 70, and the risk of blood clots does not appear to be present in those age groups. 

Health Canada says VIPIT occurs at a rate of about one in 100,000 people vaccinated, with a mortality rate of about 40 per cent, although more research is needed and that risk is reduced if treated early enough.

The total number of people in Europe who got the rare blood clots after vaccination is small — as of this month, dozens of cases have been reported compared to millions who received the shot.

But crucially, the people who appear to have an elevated risk of the rare blood clots are not the same age group most at risk from COVID-19. 

Canada has had more than to 23,000 COVID-19 deaths in the year since the pandemic began, but fewer than a thousand of those have been in people under 60 and just over 300 in Canadians under 50.

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