Quebec woman has Canada's first reported blood clot linked to AstraZeneca vaccine
MONTREAL -- Canada reported its first case of vaccine-induced blood clots linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in a Quebec woman who is now said to be recovering at home.
The Quebec health ministry and the Public Health Agency of Canada both reported the case on Tuesday. A statement from the Quebec government didn't specify the woman's age or location, but said she's been treated and there's no danger for her life.
Premier François Legault told reporters later Tuesday that the woman “is doing well” and that he sees a silver lining in the incident: that it does appear to be incredibly rare.
“This is a very good example,” Legault said. “We have over 100,000 people who have been vaccinated [with the AstraZeneca vaccine] in the past five days and we're talking about one case here.”
Still, Legault said, “what we're doing right now is hypervigilance, and it's important to say so,” adding that the province’s health ministry has a protocol in place to follow up on any reports of thrombosis.
Quebec’s health ministry said in a release that it was this protocol, and extra training in recent weeks for medical staff, that allowed it to quickly spot the woman’s case.
She had two conditions simultaneously, the ministry reported: thrombocytopenia with thrombosis. The first means a low platelet count in blood, while the second refers to a blood clot.
That particular combination makes up the unusual type of clot that should be listed as a rare side effect of the vaccine, according to a decision last week by the EU's medical regulator, the European Medicines Agency.
Unusual post-vaccine symptoms “are rare events that sometimes occur regardless of the vaccination campaign,” Quebec's health ministry wrote Tuesday.
“They may be due to one of the components of the vaccine or to the injection technique; they can also have other causes, which sometimes remain unknown.”
It asked people who have been recently vaccinated to contact a doctor if they have severe or persistent headaches, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, leg swelling, cold limbs, persistent abdominal pain, or skin bruising.
The woman received the vaccine known as Covishield, which is produced at the Serum Institute of India.
Authorities did not provide the woman's age, nor did they specify whether she is older than or younger than 55, which is the cut-off age currently recommended by Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
People under 55 in Canada are not currently given the AstraZeneca vaccine, under health regulations, because of an increased risk of blood clots for that age group.
Health Canada asked AstraZeneca for a full risk assessment of its vaccine after reports of similar clots in Europe, but says the side effect is extremely rare and the vaccine's benefits still outweigh its risks.
The risk of getting blood clots from COVID-19 itself is far higher than from the vaccine.
Across Canada, more than 700,000 people have now received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, gave a more exact version of Quebec’s statistics in a statement, confirming that the province’s rate of blood clots so far holds with what’s been reported elsewhere.
As of Monday, the province has administered 112,351 doses of Covishield vaccine and 73,426 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, he said. With the single known blood clot, the rate is therefore about one in 100,000 doses, consistent with elsewhere.
Quebec recorded record vaccination numbers over the last week after receiving a big shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine and making it available to people 55 and up, an age group that wasn't previously eligible for any vaccine, as well as creating a series of drop-in clinics that required no appointment.
The province's health minister also got the AstraZeneca vaccine a few weeks ago in a photo op to reassure people that it was safe.
--With files from The Canadian Press