QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec has paused its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate people under 55 "as a precautionary measure," according to a Monday public health announcement.

In a statement, the ministry said it made the decision based on recommendations from Quebec and national health advisory boards.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is examining a potential link between the vaccine and blood clotting in the brain, as well as other bleeding disorders.

While “the EMA still considers this product to be safe and effective,” Quebec public health said the possibility of a link “cannot be completely ruled out at this time.”

“Very rare cases have occurred within weeks of receiving AstraZeneca vaccine in some European countries, the majority in women under 55 years of age,” read the release.

“However, it is not possible to determine at this stage whether the events are related to the person's gender.”

So far, 111,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Quebec. There have been no recorded cases of blood clotting among people who have receive the vaccine in Canada.

Other provinces are also putting the vaccine on hold. Manitoba has taken the same strategy as Quebec, while PEI announced Monday morning that they would halt use of the vaccine for people aged 18 to 29.

It's the latest episode of turbulence for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Earlier in March, Canada and several other countries halted its use in seniors, but rescinded that guidance two weeks later.

In a statement, Health Canada said they are adding additional requirements to authorize the use of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Verity Pharmaceuticals/Serum Institute of India, the two approved manufacturers.

“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,” Health Canada said in the statement.

“This information will support the ongoing evaluation of these rare blood clotting events, and allow Health Canada to determine if there are specific groups of people​ who may be at higher risk.”

Canada is expecting to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday from the United States, which has not yet authorized it for emergency use. The shipment will represent the first doses to come from the United States.


Even with the suspension, the province says the vaccination schedule won't affect its goal to have all adults vaccinated by June 24

"For now, the objective of administering a first dose of vaccine by Fete Nationale to all adults wishing to receive it in Quebec is maintained," wrote a spokesperson in a statement to CTV News.

"Everything will be done to limit the impact on the vaccination campaign as much as possible."

As of Monday morning, 14.9 per cent of Quebecers have received a dose of either the AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Pfizer vaccines. 

On average, health-care professionals are vaccinating 42,029 people per day, or about 1 per cent of the population every two days. 

So far, the province has received 1,380,295 doses from the national supply, with 272,610 more expected to arrive this week from Pfizer. 

-- This is a developing story that will be updated. With reporting from CTV News Reporters Ryan Flanagan and Ben Cousins.