Canada's top public health agency has recorded the first reported case of a blood clot believed to have been tied to the COVID-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford, according to media reports. Quebec's Ministry of Health and Social Services confirmed evidence of the clotting condition, known as vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia, earlier this week.
The ministry didn't confirm the age or gender of the person, but Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé later confirmed her gender as female. "The good news is, the woman in question was taken care of and she's doing well," he said during a press conference Tuesday.
Dubé said the province is taking a "hypervigilant" approach and keeping a close eye on any adverse reactions related to the vaccine. He said this was a possibility that health officials "expected" and prepared for. "We have been very transparent that there could be one case per 100,000," he said. "We knew this could happen."
The ministry didn't confirm the age or gender of the person, but Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé later identified the individual as a woman. The agency, he added, has "been very transparent that there could be one case per 100,000," he said. "We knew this could happen."
As the world waits to hear more about cases of potentially post-vaccine complications, Canada's decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Canadians under 55 during a surging third wave and a slow vaccination rollout is being described as a "calculated risk," by the government, although, with the entire country virtually sealed off from travel, millions of Canadians are hoping that the news won't delay a reopening.
So far, at least, Health Canada has long maintained that the benefits of the vaccine to protect against COVID-19 still outweigh the potential risks, with more than 300K doses of the shot administered and no cases of the deadly clotting, known as vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), until now, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization updated its guidance to provinces and territories against the use of the vaccine for younger Canadians on Monday, following reports of rare but potentially fatal blood clots in Europe connected to the shot.
The total number of people in Europe who got the rare blood clots after vaccination is small — as of this month, dozens of cases have been reported compared to millions who received the shot. In the US, Johnson & Johnson, along with the CDC and FDA, have confirmed half a dozen potentially suspicious deaths. Canada alone has confirmed more than 23K COVID-linked deaths in the year since the pandemic began, but fewer than 1K of those patients have been people under 60. Just over 300 deaths have been Canadians under 50.
Dr. Menaka Pai, a clinical hematologist at McMaster University in Hamilton and a member of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, warned that the adverse blood clotting event is still "extremely rare" and officials need to balance the risk of administering the vaccine with the risk of COVID-19.
"We have to consider what the risk is of not taking the vaccine," she said. "I know people are really worried, but as a front-line physician myself who's watching this virus...rip through the province of Ontario, I think that people still should take the first vaccine that's offered to them."
Notably, Pai confirmed that the patient showed several of the symptoms associated with the rare clots early on, suggesting that Canada may also be on the brink of receiving a surge in 911 calls and hospital visits as patients (and especially hypochondriacs) fear they might be afflicted with the extremely rare, but deadly, condition.