MONTREAL -- Some Montrealers have refused the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine when showing up to their appointments, officials say, as fears grow about the vaccine's potential side effects. 

But the province's premier and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both said Monday the vaccine is safe to use. 

The Montreal North health authority reported that eight per cent of eligible people declined the vaccine on Saturday once they found out they were set to receive the AstraZeneca shot.

"Because of the negative publicity surrounding this vaccine, we have indeed had to reassure some people," wrote the health authority's spokesperson, Emilie Jacob, in an email to CTV Montreal.

"We are taking the time to provide them with valid information about this vaccine so that they can make an informed decision."

Multiple European countries have temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports that the vaccine may cause blood clots in patients. 

There have been no reports of blood clots in patients in Canada.

Other centres in Montreal are seeing people decline the vaccine as well. The Centre West health authority, which runs the Decarie Square mass vaccination clinic, said about 12 per cent of those set to be vaccinated at the clinic over the weekend also refused the AstraZeneca shot.

Carl Theriault, a spokesperson for CIUSSS West Central Montreal, said the vaccine is safe for use.

"It is important to remember that this vaccine was approved by Health Canada," he wrote in a statement to CTV Montreal. "Like the other vaccines, this one prevents the severe form of COVID-19."


One of those who refused the AstraZeneca shot was Sheldon Ashley, who said he declined it on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium clinic once he was told the brand of vaccine that would be used.

Ashley told CTV he had concerns about getting the shot since it was initially not recommended for people over 65. He turned 65 last week. After seeing some of the reports from Europe, he said he didn't want to take a chance. 

"It just scared me a little bit," he said Monday. "I just walked out. I just said 'sorry' and walked out, came home, and booked another appointment."

He said the next spot he could find available was for March 29 at another vaccination clinic, but the delay is worth it to him. 

"I don't have any regrets for refusing it," he said. "I don't want to take that vaccine at all."


Health Canada has said Canada has not received any AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that were part of the batch under investigation for blood clots and Trudeau reassured Canadians that the doses in Canada are safe. 

In a news conference in Montreal on Monday, held for an unrelated announcement, Trudeau also made a few comments about the vaccine concerns, trying to reassure people the fears are unwarranted.

“Health Canada, and our experts and scientists, have spent an awful lot of time making sure that every vaccine approved in Canada is both safe and effective,"  Trudeau said.

"Therefore, the best vaccine for you to take is the very first one that is offered to you. That is how we get through this as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.”


A World Health Organization will meet Tuesday to discuss the worries around the AstraZeneca vaccine, though its general director says it's not clear that there's any problem with it.

Ireland, Germany, France and Italy have all temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine in the past two days following reports that it may be linked to post-incolution blood clots, including one such report from Norway.

On Saturday, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said there were four new cases of serious blood clotting in adults after taking the vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency said that as of March 10, there were just 30 reports of clots among almost 5 million people given the vaccine across Europe.

AstraZeneca on Sunday said it had conducted a review of people vaccinated with its COVID-19 vaccine, which has shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

The review covered more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and United Kingdom.

"A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country," the company statement said.

-- With files from CTV Montreal's Kelly Greig and Reuters.