A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta Health Services is running out of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that it had been making available to younger people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta Health Services is running out of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that it had been making available to younger people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL

B.C.’s frontline worker vaccine program in flux as AstraZeneca use paused for under-55s

Issue caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine is called vaccine-induced pro-thrombotic immune thrombocytopenia

The future of the vaccine program for frontline workers, meant to run in tandem with B.C.’s age-based rollout, remains uncertain, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday (March 29).

The news came just after Canada’s federal immunization experts said they would be pausing use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55.

“Over this past week, a signal was detected in younger people in Europe using the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Henry said. “While the instances are rare, this is a very rare with tens of millions of doses of this vaccine being used, we are taking the precaution in suspending the use of this vaccine for people who are under age 55 for the next few days.”

The specific issue caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine is called vaccine-induced pro-thrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT). Henry said there have been less than 30 cases identified around the world, primarily in Europe. Overall, there have been 523 adverse effects following immunization in B.C., largely allergic and anaphylactic reactions. A total of 699,092 doses have been administered so far.

“But it is a serious condition, and could lead to serious outcomes,” she said. The Public Health Agency of Canada calls VIPIT “a rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets.”

Henry said that people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine more than 20 days ago should not be concerned.

“If you have received the AstraZeneca vaccine and you develop symptoms that are concerning such as headaches or swelling… you can seek medical attention,” she said. “It is very rare and it is unlikely to see any cases here in British Columbia and in Canada.”

The condition can be tested for, Henry said, and treated.

As far as B.C.’s frontline vaccination program goes, it’s unclear what will happen next. Surrey teachers who had appointments to be vaccinated Monday received Pfizer in place of AstraZeneca.

“We will be looking at how we use AstraZeneca vaccine that’s coming in and yes, it may be that we’ll put it towards the age-based program knowing that this risk is not seen in people over age 55, or at least not yet,” Henry said. “But that’s much to be determined. By later this week we’ll have a better idea of how we can use that.”

READ MORE: Canada to pause Oxford-AstraZeneca shots for under-55s

READ MORE: B.C. reports more than 2,500 COVID cases over the weekend as variants continue to spread

READ MORE: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

READ MORE: B.C. announces amendments to school mask mandate amid COVID surge


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

t
Q&A with the Castlegar council candidates

Four candidates are running for one council seat

Email editor@fedwaymirror.com
LETTER: Covid blame should fall on leaders, not youth

Reader Rod Retzlaff blames leaders for COVID variant spread

A mushroom grower plans to plan new mushrooms in fallen trees in the Kaslo Community Forest. File photo
Kaslo mushroom farmer given green light for unique project

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

The Kootenay Lake ferry terminals will receive a number of upgrades this year. File photo
Kootenay Lake ferry terminals to receive upgrades

The transportation ministry announced the $5.5-million project Thursday

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Most Read