New Brunswick has pressed pause on administering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at clinics or to anyone under 55, citing a “rarity of serious side-effects,” but will continue to administer it to those over 55.
In an interview Monday night, Dr. Jennifer Russell said the decision was made after extensive conversations with Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, known as NACI.
The committee recommended Monday that AstraZeneca not be used at this time for people under 55, following concerns in Europe raised by “rare cases of people under 55 having blood clots up to 20 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
Russell stressed that the decision was made out of “an abundance of caution” and in an effort to be fully transparent.
“As much as it’s difficult to not be confused and not be anxious during a pandemic, we are trying to minimize that and to minimize vaccine hesitancy by providing as much information as we can so people can make informed decisions,” she said.
Russell also noted that the decision won’t derail the province’s planned vaccination rollout, and she said all New Brunswickers who want a vaccine should have their first dose by the end of June.
“The timeline won’t change in terms of everybody getting their first dose,” Russell said.
“What will change is the age group in terms of who’s getting which vaccine.”
People under 55 who are slated to get an AstraZeneca vaccine will now get the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine or Moderna vaccine.
The vaccine will still be administered to those over 55. And clinics that were already scheduled this week to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, including clinics for first responders and teachers, will go ahead but will administer Pfizer and Moderna vaccines instead, Russell said.
The province is set to receive 30,900 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine from the U.S. later this week.
For those who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Public Health dispersed information Monday to health-care professionals regarding diagnosis and assessment of adverse occurrences.
Symptoms, which would occur between Day 5 and Day 21 after vaccination, include shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain, blurry vision, swelling in legs and severe headaches.
“But it’s so rare — we’re talking about 25 cases in 20 million,” Russell said, adding that there have been no reported adverse effects from the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in New Brunswick or in Canada.
“I’m quite comfortable that we’re able to carry on with vaccinating people 55 and over with AstraZeneca.”
RCMP New Brunswick spokesperson Cpl. Hans Ouellette, who was photographed receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in a post on the force’s Facebook page, declined to say Monday how many RCMP staff have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at first-responder clinics.
“What I can say is that for the RCMP, health and safety is our top priority and the best way to ensure that is to follow the advice of our top officials, which we have done and will continue to do,” Ouellette said.
New Brunswick pharmacy teams have administered only Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines so far, with AstraZeneca doses having been administered by regional health authorities at clinics for teachers, first responders and others.
“We urge the public not to call their pharmacy to ask about the AstraZeneca vaccine, as pharmacy teams continue to be busy with COVID vaccine clinics in addition to providing their regular health-care services,” New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association executive director Jake Reid said in an email.
Horizon Health Authority said all of its health-care workers received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Red phase extended to more of Edmundston region
The red phase “circuit breaker” imposed on part of Edmundston region last week has been expanded because of the confirmed presence of the more contagious variants and the possibility of community transmission, Public Health said Monday.
Beginning at midnight Monday night, Saint-Léonard, Grand Falls, Drummond, New Denmark and Four Falls will be included with the areas of Edmundston and the upper Madawaska region.
The Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions will remain in the yellow phase, along with the rest of the province.
11 new cases, all in Edmundston region
There were 11 new cases reported in New Brunswick on Monday, all of them in the Edmundston region, Zone 4.
The 11 cases break down in this way:
- Three people 19 or under, all are contacts of a previous case
- Two people 30 to 39, both cases under investigation
- Three people 40 to 49. Two cases are under investigation and one is a contact of a previous case
- An individual 50 to 59, case is under investigation
- Two people 60 to 69, one case a contact of a previous case and the other under investigation
All of the cases are self-isolating.
There are now 120 active cases in the province, 98 of them in the Edmundston region, Zone 4.
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,588. Since Sunday, five people have recovered for a total of 1,437 recoveries. Four patients are hospitalized, including two in an intensive care unit, and 30 people have died.
A total of 253,322 tests have been conducted, including 1,090 since Sunday’s report.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:
A fever above 38 C.
A new cough or worsening chronic cough.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should: