Spend an hour outside an east Toronto pharmacy with a television camera and a question about a controversial COVID-19 vaccine, and people will let you know exactly how they feel.
“Anything you get is better than nothing,” said Kathleen Nagy, who recently got her first shot of a coronavirus vaccine.
But Nagy acknowledges she received the Pfizer vaccine, the first one approved for use and regarded by many as the brand they’d select, if given a choice.
The issue now is whether those who qualify to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine would get in spite of concerns around whether the product is safe.
Arnelle Leblanc got her first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine two weeks ago. She’s eagerly looking forward to her second shot.
“I had a good talk with my doctor, he said don’t listen to the hype: the benefits outweigh the negatives,” Leblanc told Global News.
Those negatives include as many as two dozen reports from Europe involving cases of younger patients with blood clots who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. A firm link between the vaccines and the blood clots is still under investigation.
There are no reported cases of blood clots after vaccinations in Canada.
However, as a result of the European investigation, Canada’s National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) updated its guidelines to provinces and is now advising against giving the vaccine to anyone under age 55.
“This change does not mean the AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t safe or a good vaccine,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia.
“The benefits of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the increased risk of COVID-19 in older adults,” Strang said at a news conference.
On Monday, Ontario health minister Christine Elliott publicly received the AstraZeneca vaccine in front of cameras.
When it comes to blood clots, women who take birth control medication may be at higher risk than others; however, the AstraZeneca vaccination likely does not increase the risk.
“At this point, based on the available evidence and the science of how these clots form, we don’t expect patients who are using birth control or are pregnant to have an elevated risk of blood clots when getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Dustin Costescu, an obstetrician and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.
Anne Swan says she’s aware of the risks, but with a compromised immune system she’s prepared to receive anything that’s available.
“I put it at the back of my mind because it’s a gamble,” Swan said, after finding out that her pharmacy is no longer accepting vaccination appointments.
But Samira Remtulla takes a different view.
“I would be very afraid to take it (AstraZeneca). It’s not safe yet,” she said.
So far, Canadians have received more than 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Corey Nutter said current concerns about the safety of the vaccine would not prevent him from agreeing to get the jab.
“Definitely not. You’re never going to know unless you try it, right?”