TORONTO — As the federal government ramps up its mass inoculation campaign, one Canadian hematologist is reassuring people that the benefits of receiving the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine still outweigh the risks, despite a rare risk of blood clots.
Dr. Menaka Pai, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University and a hematologist and thrombosis medicine physician at Hamilton Health Sciences, took to Twitter on Friday to emphasize that the benefits of the vaccine combating the effects of the virus continue to outweigh the potential side-effects associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“If you’re under 50 it’s between 1/50K and 1/100K. Wish I could be more precise. But when the science is moving fast and the event is rare, you can’t make better predictions than that,” Pai tweeted on Friday.
Pai further explained that even with the risk of developing a severe blood clot, people should be reassured by the fact hospitals know how to identify the clots and are prepared to treat them.
She insists that the vaccine itself is still safer than taking on the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Risks don’t matter unless you weigh them. Put the 1/50-100K risk of taking AZ on one side of the scale. What’s going on the other side? The risk of not taking AZ. Are you scared of dying of COVID? Being hospitalized? (That one scared me – I have 2 little kids),” she said.
Dr. Pai also shared some advice for people who might be balancing the risks versus the rewards of the AstraZeneca vaccine. She said it begins with understanding how dire the situation is in your community.
“If you live in the GTA, and in many other hot areas of ON, you could ignore the scales and wait for Pfizer or Moderna. That is your right. But with community transmission being so high, you are taking on a large amount of risk. Patients in our ICUs right now were waiting…” she said.
Dr. Pai also tweeted that people are more likely to develop clotting from the actual virus itself than from an AstraZeneca vaccine, and while people continue to shop for vaccines, they risk contracting the virus.
“I know this pandemic has put us on edge. Canada’s blood clot specialists – and our friends worldwide – are working 24/7 to ensure that we can care for you if you get a blood clot (and you’re more likely to get one if you catch COVID than if you get AZ),” she said.
As of Friday, Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Quebec have all reported cases of blood clotting related to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Despite the clotting, public health officials continue to stand by the vaccine and vouch for its safety.
As of last week in Canada, more than 700,000 people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. In total five people have been diagnosed with blood clots linked to the vaccine.
Although there is no concrete evidence tying the clotting to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the European Medicines agency determined there is a possible link.
“I will not tell YOU what to do, because your life circumstances and health situation are not mine. But I will not let you be misinformed about blood clots. I will not let your fears be dismissed or minimized. I will be transparent about what I know,” she said.
On Friday the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) lowered the age of eligibility and recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone 30 years of age and older.
It remains at the discretion of provincial governments and territories to determine when that age group will be allowed to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, depending on supply.
Next week, the federal government is expecting deliveries of a total of 1.9 million vaccine doses.
Canada was expecting to see a total of 4.1 million AstraZeneca vaccines arrive by the end of June, with the bulk of deliveries set to come sometime between July and September. To date, 2.3 million AstraZeneca doses have arrived in Canada.
As of Saturday, Canada has distributed nearly 13.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and more than 11 million of those vaccines have been administered, with just over 34 per cent of eligible adults having at least one shot, according to CTVNews.ca’s vaccine tracker.
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