After Alberta was the first to announce that the first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine would be discontinued, Ontario and Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan) subsequently announced that the first dose would be given without the AstraZeneca vaccine. Other provinces, however, have said they do not plan to suspend AstraZeneca, and federal health officials have said they still believe the vaccine is safe for use in most populations.
But three Canadian provinces, after all, are now taking different strategies, raising speculation about why this sudden shift has occurred, including claims of uncertain supply and concerns that the AstraZeneca vaccine carries a risk of rare blood clots.
In light of this, CTV anchor Lisa LaFlamme interviewed Canadian thrombosis expert Dr. Menaka Pai, an associate professor of hematology and thromboembolism at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and a member of the Ontario Dr. Menaka Pai is an Associate Professor of Hematology and Thromboembolism at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) and a member of the COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group.
The following is a summary of their conversation.
Moderator: Doctor, you are a member of the Ontario Scientific Advisory Panel, so your job is to look at the problem from a scientific perspective. May I ask what triggered today’s sudden announcement?
Doctor: Yes, it’s science, Lisa. It’s changing very rapidly and the reality of the pandemic is changing in many parts of Canada, and I think it’s a thoughtful decision based on evolving science.
Moderator: Okay, so why is AstraZeneca so successful in the UK, but it seems fraught with problems in our country?
DOCTOR: I think AstraZeneca is still a very effective vaccine against COVID-19. It has reduced deaths, hospitalizations and serious illnesses, and that’s what we’re seeing in the UK. In Canada, the situation is different. We’re certainly more aware of these adverse events, we’re launching investigations, and we’re actually benefiting from the benefits of having more vaccine options available to us in the last few weeks.
Moderator: So that’s an option. We are now in a position to suspend it at the time of the first dose. But what about the second dose? People who have had AstraZeneca now feel a little bit like guinea pigs, or even like yo-yos. Right now there are so many different opinions, so people who had the first dose of AstraZeneca, what do they get for the second dose?
Doc: First of all, I want to express my sympathy for them. A lot of people I know and even like have had the first shot of AstraZeneca and they are really worried about it. As for the second dose, we are waiting for more scientific studies to come out, so we are hopeful about a study that has been done in the UK. We hope that the study will be sufficient to show that vaccine mix and match is safe and effective. We also believe that the risk of clotting may be slightly lower with the second dose, and as the science develops, we will look at that in order to make good recommendations for Canadians and give them peace of mind.
Moderator: Doctor, all of what you’ve said is important to us, and thank you for your insights tonight.
DOCTOR: Thank you, Lisa.