A person in their 60s has died after experiencing blood clots and low platelets after getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the patient received a dose in mid-April and got symptoms seven days after immunization.
They went to hospital and died two days later.
Russell said she has extended her condolences to the person’s family.
“Your loss is deeply felt by all your fellow New Brunswickers,” she said.
It’s the first death and the second case of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia in the province.
“I want to stress that medical complications following vaccination are extremely rare, but they do happen,” said Russell.
Due to privacy reasons, she said she couldn’t release any more details about this case.
Russell said the province will continue to evaluate the risk of the AstraZeneca vaccine “to ensure that risks associated with its use are proportional to the potential consequences of COVID-19, becoming hospitalized, requiring ICU admission, and even death.”
“The information that we have to this date is that the benefits outweigh those risks, and we will continue to evaluate the situation,” she said.
She also said the province is investigating two more cases.
Symptoms to look out for
The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently open for New Brunswickers aged 55 and over. The province has received 48,000 doses so far, including 100 doses this week.
New Brunswick has administered 44,000 doses so far.
“We have used this product prudently in keeping with medical evidence and guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization,” she said.
“In people of this age bracket, the risk of serious harm from COVID-19 is greater than the risk of these rare blood clots.”
Russell said people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine should seek medical attention if they develop the following symptoms four to 28 days after getting their dose:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Leg swelling.
- Persistent abdominal pain.
- Neurological symptoms like severe and persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision.
- Skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.
Uptake in vaccines
On Tuesday, the province announced it would be expanding its vaccine eligibility to include people 50 and older, as well as people over the age of 16 with two or more chronic conditions.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, who also attended Wednesday’s briefing, said since that announcement, 10,000 people have booked appointments.
She also stressed that the risk of dying from COVID-19 is greater than the risk of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I understand that today’s news will cause some to question whether they should get vaccinated, but I ask that you listen to the science and follow the advice of Public Health as you make your decision,” she said.
‘The most important thing is to get it behind us’
A man in Saint John who has received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine said it’s a tragedy that a family has lost a loved one after getting the shot.
John Bourque, who received his first shot in April, said he experienced mild symptoms after getting the shot, but he was prepared for them and they went away within a day.
“I had no issues whatsoever. It was always my intention to take the first vaccine that was available,” he said. “My age group came up and I went online and booked it.”
If he had the choice, Bourque said he would have preferred the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but he’ll wait for up-to-date guidance for his second shot.
Dr. Russell has said rare complications only arise in one out of every 100,000 to 250,000 people — context that’s important to know when it comes to making an informed choice, said Bourque.
“If I have to get a second shot of the AstraZeneca because the mix and match thing isn’t going to work, I’ll get it. I’ll get it and have no qualms about it,” he said.
“Certainly the most important thing is to get (the pandemic) behind us, get it behind us all.”
In a statement, the New Brunswick Medical Society urged New Brunswickers to “follow the guidance set by Public Health as we all work together to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“This means getting a vaccine as soon as it is available to you. The more people vaccinated, the sooner we can return to the more normal life we all desire,” the statement said.
– With files from Callum Smith