Health officials in Montreal are reassuring people that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe and efficient.
This comes as some people who made appointments are leaving without getting a shot after refusing to get the AstraZeneca injection.
Vicki and Bill Polger both had appointments to be vaccinated at the Bob Birnie Arena in Pointe Claire Monday, but only one of them ended up getting a shot. Bill happily accepted the Pfizer vaccine, which he was offered because he’s over 80. When the younger Vicki was offered Astra Zeneca, she declined it.
“I’m not comfortable with 60 per cent, that means I have 40 per cent chance of getting sick,” she told Global News, saying she doesn’t want to risk getting sick because she wouldn’t be able to take care of her husband.
After one dose, AstraZeneca is 60 per cent efficient against COVID-19, and 90 per cent efficient at preventing hospitalizations. Millions have received the injection in Britain.
“That vaccine is, in fact, protecting very well people against hospitalizations and severe COVID,” said Dr. Gaston de Serres, an epidemiologist with Quebec’s Public Health Research Institute.
“Health Canada and our experts and scientists have spent an awful lot of time making sure that every vaccine approved in Canada is both safe and effective,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Montreal.
Like multiple health officials Global News spoke to, he recommended getting the first vaccine you possibly can.
“I told her why I wasn’t interested in the AstraZeneca and I wasn’t going to take it,” said Michael Ryshpan, a Hampstead resident who told Global News he refused the shot at the Decarie Square vaccination centre.
Along with a lower efficacy rate than Moderna and Pfizer after the first dose, Ryshpan cited evolving guidelines and the growing list of European countries suspending the use of the vaccine because of reports of blood clots.
De Serres says there’s no evidence the blood clots were caused by the vaccine.
“At the present time, the frequency is not in excess of what you would have in an unvaccinated population,” he explained.
Officials say the AstraZeneca shot being given in Quebec is called Covishield and is not manufactured in the same place as those facing questions in Europe.
“It’s the same recipe, but it’s done in a different kitchen,” explained Dalia Toledano, the vaccination director at the West Island Health Authority (CIUSSS).
The vast majority of people in Montreal are rolling up their sleeve for it. After the second dose, protection is near 90 per cent.
“I would rather have the vaccine with the very limited risks that it entails than take the risk of having nothing and contracting COVID,” said Alain Dupuis, a 67-year-old Montreal lawyer who got the AstraZeneca vaccine over the weekend and reported no ill effects.
“I believe in the scientists,” said John Galianos, who also got the shot. He did express disappointment that his second shot would only be administered in July.
“Once we were able to give them the information and explain it, a lot of them did choose to have the vaccine and were more reassured,” said Toledano. Multiple health authorities have brought in more staff to help answer questions and alleviate fears.
Toledano said it’s up to each individual to gather information and make a decision for themselves.
Vicki Polger said she will try her luck getting an appointment at her local pharmacy. For now, pharmacies will be administering the Moderna vaccine.