Health officials have announced that British Columbia’s AstraZeneca vaccination program for frontline workers is being paused until further notice.
The announcement was made on Thursday afternoon by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. The decision comes shortly after the use of the vaccine was postponed for those under the age of 55 due to rare blood clots following its use.
“Our worker program that was to start next week as we received more of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be put on pause for now,” Henry explained during a conference. “We’re going to need to regroup and we will come back early next week as soon as we have more information to determine how we are going to move forward with that program.”
The program was introduced in mid-March as an additional immunization stream for the province. More than 300,000 frontline workers were supposed to receive an AstraZeneca or a COVISHIELD vaccine in the coming weeks.
Eligible workers include first responders, teachers and educational staff, childcare staff, and grocery store staff, among others.
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BC’s program to provide AstraZeneca vaccination to those between the age of 55 and 65 in the Lower Mainland, however, continues as planned.
Henry said that based on a recent study, there have been about 29 cases of blood clotting in approximately three million doses. She added that there has not been any evidence of this occurring in Canada and “very low numbers around the world.”
She also stressed that, especially for those over the age of 55, the benefits of the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccine “far outweigh any risk of these very rare blood events.”
“If you have received this vaccine, be reassured that it works very well, it’s an effective vaccine and we know it’s safe,” Henry reassured. “And if it’s beyond 20 days, then you’re beyond the risk factor period for these rare events.”
“The vaccine is very effective and far better from getting sick with COVID-19.”