The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is expected to release new guidelines later today, recommending the suspension of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for Canadians aged 55 and under.
NACI is an external advisory body that provides input to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and according to CBC, the new guidelines will be released over safety concerns around the vaccine.
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Last week, Health Canada updated the label for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to provide information on “very rare” reports of blood clots associated with the shots.
The health agency said the report follows “very rare adverse” events in Europe. Health Canada says it is working with European regulators to review the evidence and has updated the vaccine’s label in Canada.
The health department also issued guidance for healthcare professionals and vaccine recipients on the potential symptoms to monitor.
The agency has a “robust monitoring” system in place for all of the country’s authorized vaccines, and Canada itself has not reported any of the blood clots to date on home soil.
“Health Canada is aware that researchers in Europe have indicated that they have identified a possible cause for these very rare events observed in AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine recipients,” reads the statement. “However, little information is available about this emerging research. Health Canada will be reviewing this evidence when available.”
The agency says that minor and temporary adverse effects, such as headache, fever, fatigue or pain at the injection site, are “common after all vaccinations.”
People should seek medical attention if they experience any new or worsening symptoms.
Health Canada responds
In a statement on Monday, Health Canada said it has previously communicated on its ongoing assessment of very rare adverse events reported in Europe of thrombosis (blood clots) with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets) occurring after immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“To date, no cases of these events have been reported in Canada,” the agency said. “However, through our ongoing international collaboration, Health Canada has become aware that additional cases of these events have been reported in Europe.”
In light of this “evolving” information, Health Canada said it will be issuing additional terms and conditions on the authorizations of the AstraZeneca and Verity Pharmaceuticals/Serum Institute of India vaccines.
These will include “a requirement that the manufacturers conduct a detailed assessment of the benefits and risks of the vaccine by age and sex in the Canadian context.”
In the meantime, Health Canada said its guidance issued to healthcare practitioners last week “still stands.”