New Brunswick has followed the lead of other provinces and suspended the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for first doses, with some exceptions, the chief medical officer of health announced Thursday.
Dr. Jennifer Russell also announced two other New Brunswickers who received the vaccine suffered a rare but potentially deadly blood clot associated with low platelets, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT.
Both are in their 50s and received the shot in mid-April. One person has recovered, while the other is still in hospital undergoing treatment, she said.
The province will continue to use the vaccine for people aged 55 or older who are confined at home and don’t have access to other immunization clinics, with their consent, said Russell.
The vaccine does come with risks but also has benefits when it’s used appropriately, she said.
“In our judgment, we must use every tool at our disposal.”
Earlier this month, a New Brunswicker in their 60s died after developing blood clots following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine. In April, someone in their 30s, who received the vaccine in March, also suffered a blood clot, but recovered.
The risk of blood clots associated with the vaccine is now estimated at one in 55,000 in Canada.
Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Alberta all suspended the use of AstraZeneca for first doses this week, citing new data showing a still-small but higher risk of blood clots than before.
New Brunswick uses AstraZeneca on people 55 or over.
The province has about 4,000 doses of the vaccine that must be used before they expire on May 31, and is due to receive another 13,500 doses through the Covax distribution system next week.
Russell expects these will be offered to those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca and want a second dose of the same vaccine. Again, this will be done with the person’s informed consent, she said.