Canada suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for under 55s - Almost 50% of people in NI were likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in the week to March 14

Health chiefs in Canada have suspended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in people under the age of 55.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 11:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 5:40 pm

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Gary Davidson (left), 55, from Lisbane in Co Down, is the first to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from Nurse Susan McComisky at the newly opened Covid-19 vaccination centre in the SSE Arena, Belfast on Monday.

LIVE UPDATES - Coronavirus NI - Five additional Covid deaths and 151 new infections in last 24 hours

Last updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2021, 14:10

Five additional Covid deaths and 151 new infections in last 24 hours

Five further deaths of people who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland have been reported by the Department of Health.

Another 151 confirmed cases of the virus were recorded in the last 24-hour reporting period.

On Tuesday morning, there were 131 Covid-positive confirmed inpatients in hospital, of whom 18 were in ICUs.

Almost 50% of people in NI were likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in the week to March 14

Around half of people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in the week to March 14, suggesting they had the infection in the past or had been vaccinated, according to the latest ONS estimates.

England had the highest estimate (54.7%), followed by Wales (50.5%) and Northern Ireland (49.3%).

The figures are for people in private households and do not include settings such as hospitals and care homes.

The ONS estimates around two in five people in private households in Scotland (42.6%) would have tested positive for antibodies in the week to March 14.

Canadian panel recommends pause on AstraZeneca vaccine for under-55s

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunisation has recommended a pause on AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccinations for people under 55 for safety reasons, sources said - writes Rob Gillies, Associated Press.

It remains a recommendation and it is up to each of Canada’s provinces to decide whether to follow it.

The provinces of Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island announced suspensions of the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55 following concerns it may be linked to rare blood clots.

Quebec said in a news release that the decision was taken in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada as well as provincial and federal vaccine advisory committees

Dr Joss Reimer of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force said despite the finding that there was no increase risk of blood clots overall related to AstraZeneca in Europe, a rare but very serious side effect has been seen primarily in young women in Europe.

“So out of abundance of caution, Manitoba will be recommending that these vaccines only be used in people who are 55 or older at this time. I do want to say this is a pause while we wait for more information to better understand what we are seeing in Europe,” Dr Reimer said.

She said the rare type of blood clot typically happens between four and 20 days after getting the shot and the symptoms can mirror a stroke or heart attack.

Dr Reimer said medics have not seen any of these cases in Canada.

“While we still believe the benefits for all ages outweigh the risks I’m not comfortable with probably. I want to see more data coming out of Europe so I know exactly what this risk benefit analysis is,” she said.

Ontario premier Doug Ford, the leader of Canada’s most populous province, suggested his province would order a pause as well, saying: “I’d rather wait than roll the dice.”

Several European countries that suspended using the vaccine over concerns it could cause blood clots later resumed administering it after the EU’s drug regulator said the vaccine was safe.

The AstraZeneca shot, which has been authorised in more than 70 countries, is a pillar of a UN-backed project known as Covax that aims to get Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries. It has also become a key tool in European countries’ efforts to boost their sluggish vaccine rollouts, which makes doubts about the shots especially worrying.

Health Canada, the country’s regulator that approved the AstraZeneca jab, is expected to hold a news conference later.

Canada is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine from the US this week.

The vaccine is used widely in Britain, across the European continent and in other countries, but its rollout was troubled by inconsistent study reports about its effectiveness, and then more recently a scare about clots that had some countries temporarily pausing inoculations.

Canadian regulators have approved Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Canada has placed bigger bets on Pfizer and Moderna, ordering up to 76 million doses of Pfizer and up to 44 million of Moderna, compared with up to 20 million of AstraZeneca.

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