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Canada reports 1st blood clot in AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine recipient

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Canada announced on Tuesday its first report of a rare blood clot in a person who had received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Quebec health ministry said the female patient, whose age was not revealed, is recovering at home.

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“Reports of blood clots with low platelets in people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are very rare and the report of this case shows that Canada’s vaccine safety monitoring system works,” PHAC said in a statement.

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“Based on all of the evidence available internationally to-date, Health Canada continues to consider that the benefits of the AstraZeneca and Covishield vaccines to protect against COVID-19 outweigh the potential risks.”

The vaccine was produced at the Serum Institute of India and is known as CoviShield. The institute is manufacturing its own version of the vaccine under license — and its Canadian partner Verity Pharmaceuticals.

According to the federal data, as of April 3, 1.26 per cent of people in Canada have received at least one dose of the Covishield vaccine. No Canadians have received a second dose.

And 0.02 per cent of people in Canada have received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. No Canadians have received a second dose.

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In late March, Canadian health regulators said AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine cannot be administered to people under the age of 55 due to concerns over reports of rare blood clots.

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At the time, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said a majority of the cases of the adverse effect – known as vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) — have been identified in women under the age of 55.

The Quebec health ministry confirmed the patient, based in the province, experienced VIPIT following inoculation. It’s unclear at what point after vaccination the adverse event onset.

“The rapid response to the person demonstrates that the systems and protocols in place are working,” Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, said in a statement translated from French.

“All the vaccines offered in Quebec are safe and have unequivocally demonstrated their effectiveness. ”

Read more: ‘Possible’ link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, EU drug regulator says

On April 7, the European Union’s drug regulator said it found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare blood clotting disorder but recommended that vaccinations continue in adults, saying the benefits of the shot still outweigh risks.

The European Medicines Agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. It said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors.

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The NACI, the EMA, the World Health Organization and numerous other health authorities have said repeatedly that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective and that the protection it offers against COVID-19 outweighs the small risks of rare blood clots — a message Health Canada repeated Tuesday.

“Based on all of the evidence available internationally to-date, Health Canada continues to consider that the benefits of the AstraZeneca and Covishield vaccines to protect against COVID-19 outweigh the potential risks,” its statement reads.

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Canada’s top doctors have noted that the country has taken a “prudent” approach to the vaccine and its potential risks because alternative vaccines are available. Most of Canada’s supply so far has come from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Last month, Health Canada issued a label change on the AstraZeneca vials which provide information on the very rare blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets.

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— With files from The Associated Press and Global News’ Rachael D’Amore

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