- Justin Trudeau’s vaccination campaign has suffered yet another setback.
- Just 1.8% of Canadian residents have been fully vaccinated.
- The suspension comes as the number of new virus cases continues to increase.
Health officials in Canada have suspended plans to prescribe AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to people below 55 years of age due to fears that it could cause blood clots in exceptional cases.
After the nation’s vaccine advisory committee recommended a halt on prescribing it to citizens under 55 years old, provincial health officials, including those in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta, suspended the AstraZeneca shots.
It’s yet another setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vaccine campaign, which has gotten off to the second-slowest start among Group of Seven nations. This week, Canada will receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States.
According to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, only 1.8 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, compared to 15.8 percent in the United States. The majority of vaccines administered so far have been Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. vaccines, which were licenced by Canadian health authorities’ months before the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The suspension comes as the number of new virus cases continues to rise in Canada where over the seven days ending March 28, Canada recorded an average of 4,352 new cases per day, up 23 percent from the previous week.
British Columbia having kept restaurants open for the majority of the pandemic declared on Monday that it would close indoor dining, church services, and most indoor fitness programmes for three weeks, Whistler Blackcomb, a ski resort owned by Vail Resorts Inc., will be shut.
At a news conference, Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said, “We need a circuit breaker to stop this virus now.” Over the weekend, the region saw over 2,500 new incidents, with new variants on the rise.
Officials in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, registered 670 new cases, with about a third of those aged 20 to 39, according to Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was the first to report on the change in the vaccine panel’s recommendation regarding AstraZeneca.
Blood clots are a “rare but very severe side effect” of vaccines, according to Joss Reimer, the president of Manitoba’s vaccine task force. “Out of an abundance of caution,” she told reporters in Winnipeg on Monday, “Manitoba will recommend that these vaccines be used only in people 55 and older at this time.” “We’re taking a break while we collect more details.”
After questions about possible side effects were raised in Europe, the decision could raise more doubts about the vaccine’s safety. Trudeau had just two weeks earlier tried to reassure Canadians that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe to use.
The federal government is in charge of procuring and approving vaccinations, while provinces are in charge of administering shots and establishing vaccine rollout guidelines.
“I’ll tell you what, if it’s going to put someone in danger, I won’t hesitate to cancel it in a heartbeat,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference in Niagara Falls.
Denmark’s suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine was extended for another three weeks last week, and Sweden agreed to use it only on people over the age of 65.