- It’s another setback for Justin Trudeau’s vaccination effort
- Only 1.8% of Canadian residents are fully immunized
- Suspension comes as new virus cases on the rise
Health officials in Canada are suspending plans to give AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to younger people, fearing it could cause blood clots in rare circumstances.
Provincial health authorities, including those in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, halted AstraZeneca injections after the National Vaccine Advisory Committee recommended a pause in its administration to people under 55 years old.
This is another setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s immunization effort, which has the second slowest start among the Group of Seven countries. Canada is set to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States. United this week.
Only 1.8% of Canadian residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 15.8% in the United States, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. Most of the vaccines distributed to date were vaccines from Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc., which had been approved by Canadian health authorities months before the AstraZeneca injection.
The suspension comes as new cases of the virus are on the rise: Canada reported an average of 4,352 new cases per day in the seven days ended March 28, up 23% from the previous week.
British Columbia, which has kept restaurants open during most of the pandemic, announced Monday it will close restaurants, worship services and most indoor fitness activities for three weeks. Vail Resorts Inc.’s Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort will be closed.
“We need a circuit breaker to stop this virus now,” Bonnie Henry, BC provincial health official, said at a press conference. The region recorded more than 2,500 new cases over the weekend and new variants are on the rise.
In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, authorities reported 670 new cases; about a third of them are among those aged 20 to 39, said medical officer of health Eileen de Villa.
‘Rare but serious’
News of the change in the vaccination committee’s recommendation to AstraZeneca was first reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Joss Reimer, head of the Manitoba vaccine task force, said a “rare but very serious side effect” of blood clots has been seen primarily in young women in Europe. “Out of caution, Manitoba will recommend that these vaccines be used only in people 55 years of age and older at this time,” she told reporters Monday in Winnipeg. “It’s a pause while we wait for more information.”
The move could cast further doubt on the vaccine’s safety after concerns were raised in Europe about potential side effects. Just two weeks ago, Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe to use.
The federal government is responsible for purchasing and approving vaccines, while the provinces are responsible for administering vaccines and setting the rules for vaccine deployment.
“I will tell you that I will not hesitate to cancel this in half a heartbeat if it puts anyone in danger,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a conference. press in Niagara Falls.
Last week, Denmark extended its suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine for another three weeks and Sweden decided to only use it on people over the age of 65.
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