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

CNC’s Applied Research and Innovation had partnered with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cariboo Agricultural Research Alliance and Mackin Creek Farm after receiving funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to research a number of solutions potentially extending northern growing seasons. (Photo submitted)
Ways to extend growing season in B.C.’s north explored by College of New Caledonia in Quesnel

Low-cost supplemental LED lighting appears to benefit plant growth

Ecosystem restoration burn planned northwest of Quesnel near Neewa Creek

Burning will take place between April 19 and 30, 2021

Robert Merz recently shared some history behind Merz Road on Facebook. Originally built as a portion of the old Nazko Road, he said Merz Road was named to honour his grandfather and long-time Bouchie Lake resident Walt Merz. (Robert Merz Facebook photo)
Bouchie Lake residents record history with Rural Road Name Challenge

Residents explore and share origins of road names

The City of Quesnel issued an evacuation order for the property 1927 Dragon Hill Road, where the business Marshall Veterinary Hospital is located, due to the risk of landslide Thursday, April 15. (Marshall Veterinary Clinic Facebook photo)
Marshall Veterinary Hospital staff left scrambling after receiving evacuation order

Quesnel business ordered to evacuate due to landslide risk

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

B.C. Premier John Horgan greets Lt. Governor Janet Austin's dog Macduff as she arrives to present the throne speech at the B.C. legislature, April 12, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of B.C. residents have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read