An Alberta woman in her 50s has died after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
In a news release issued Tuesday night, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the fatality was confirmed to be linked to “vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).”
Family confirmed to Global News that the woman who died was 52-year-old Lisa Stonehouse.
“She was my rock,” Lisa’s 19-year-old daughter Jordan told Global News.
“My mom was just a great person… She was so happy and fun loving. Every time you were with her you couldn’t help but smile.
“She always put others in front of herself,” Jordan said.
During a news conference Wednesday morning, Health Minister Tyler Shandro offered his condolences.
“My thoughts are with the patient’s family and all of her loved ones. It’s a tragedy for them.”
Hinshaw said for patient confidentiality reasons, she would not provide additional case information.
“While any death is tragic, it is important to remember that the risks of dying or suffering other severe outcomes from COVID-19 remain far greater than the risk following AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said.
“The Alberta case marks the second VITT case and only death related to VITT out of more than 253,000 doses of AstraZeneca or CoviSHIELD/AstraZeneca that have been administered in Alberta to date.”
Hinshaw noted that the global frequency of VITT has been estimated at roughly one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“In comparison, Albertans 50 to 59 who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are 350 times more likely to die from that infection than to experience VITT after an AstraZeneca vaccine. They are also at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than experiencing VITT after getting AstraZeneca.”
Shandro acknowledged the news may be a shock for anyone who has received or is thinking about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, but he echoed Hinshaw’s comments, encouraging people to still get vaccinated and warning of the risks of a blood clot if diagnosed with COVID-19.
“This does not change the relative risks of vaccination or the message that people need to get vaccinated,” he said.
“With the risks from COVID as high as they currently are, the best vaccine is the one that’s available right now to anyone and everyone that is currently eligible.”
Shandro encouraged anyone with questions about the vaccine to speak to their doctor or another health-care professional.
Last month, Canada reported its first case of a rare blood clot in a person who had received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
A Quebec woman who passed away in late April was the first Canadian to die of the condition after receiving the vaccine.
NACI offers clarification on its position regarding AstraZeneca vaccine
Some new questions have been raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) offered additional guidance on vaccines earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the chair of NACI issued a statement about its recent “preferential recommendation” for mRNA vaccines.
“People seem to think that it means that if they received the AstraZeneca vaccine, they got a second-best shot,” Caroline Quach-Thanh said in an email. “The recommendation is not a retrospective one. That means that everyone who (has) received the AstraZeneca vaccine have been protected against COVID-19.
“In fact, effectiveness (real-world data) show that the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is as effective as the first dose of an mRNA vaccine in preventing hospitalizations and deaths due to the original SARS-CoV-2 and the variant that was first identified in the U.K.
“People who did get their AstraZeneca vaccine, mainly when COVID-19 was being transmitted in their community, actually did the right thing. They protected themselves and their families against COVID-19 complications.”
Quach-Thanh said the “preferential recommendation” this week was aimed at those not yet vaccinated.
“What we are asking is for people to evaluate their individual risk of catching COVID-19 over the next few weeks, as there should be enough mRNA vaccine doses for people to access a dose between now and the next five weeks or so,” she said.
“Depending on where one lives and of what one does, risk of catching COVID varies. If your risk of COVID is moderate to high, get the first vaccine available now. If not, then one needs to balance out the risk of COVID complications against the risk of VITT (Vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia) that, although rare, does exist and may lead to severe complications.”
Quach-Thanh added that VITT “has been associated with the viral vector vaccines and not with the mRNA vaccines, at this time.”
– With files from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED