N.B. COVID-19 cabinet committee meets Wednesday with AstraZeneca expected to be ‘major topic’: Higgs

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New Brunswick’s premier says the COVID-19 cabinet committee is meeting Wednesday night and he expects talk about the AstraZeneca vaccine. Other provinces, including Nova Scotia, have stopped giving first doses of the shot. Callum Smith reports. – May 12, 2021

A New Brunswick resident who received her first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine supports the decision made in some other provinces to pause the use of the shot.

“I think, all in all, for public confidence in the vaccine, I think it’s a good idea to do a pause when there are questions like this,” says Susan Cavanaugh, a retired nurse of 34 years.

“Hopefully … things will be OK, and they’ll be able to continue the program.”

The Moncton woman and several family members received their first dose of the shot — and will take their second regardless of which vaccine it is.

Even if it’s AstraZeneca, “same arm, go for it,” Cavanaugh says.

“We got our piece of paper that says we could get our second shot on July 27 and I’ll be making that appointment the first of July for all three of us.”

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Alberta and Ontario have all announced pauses in using the first dose of AstraZeneca. On Wednesday, Nova Scotia announced the same measure.

Read more: N.S. pausing use of AstraZeneca vaccine, reporting 149 new COVID-19 cases

“There is a global study underway to determine if an individual who took the first dose of AstraZeneca can mix their second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna,” said Premier Iain Rankin. “That is an important piece of science that we are awaiting and until that study is complete, we are putting a pausing the vaccine.”

Rankin said this will not affect the province’s vaccine rollout.

“The decision is based on an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition linked to this vaccine and because Nova Scotia has enough mRNA vaccine to immunize people age 40 and older,” a provincial news release stated.

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Saskatchewan is also not using AstraZeneca “as a first-dose strategy” because “we just simply don’t have enough of the vaccine,” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said Tuesday.

N.B. COVID-19 cabinet committee meets Wednesday

New Brunswick’s all-party COVID-19 cabinet committee is meeting Wednesday night, where Premier Blaine Higgs expects the use of AstraZeneca to be a “major topic.”

Higgs told reporters a recommendation could be coming from Public Health.

“Given what we’re seeing with other provinces, we are expecting to see either a validation of our position or a recommendation to change it,” Higgs said.

But Higgs made it clear any decision would be made with health risks as the top priority.

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“If the science says that we should change our direction, it won’t be because we have inventory that’s on the shelf,” he said. “It’ll be based on whether it’s safe to use or not safe to use given the data and the statistics that support it.”

Higgs, who received his first dose of AstraZeneca March 31, said he won’t hesitate to take a second dose if that’s what’s offered.

“I will take it when it’s available,” he said Wednesday. “I understand the science of it all, but I believe that it’s important for us to all be vaccinated at the levels we’re seeking, the 75 per cent-plus.”

“At this stage, unless we have a surplus of (other) vaccines so everyone can get vaccinated to meet those thresholds, then we should take whatever vaccine is available,” Higgs said. “That would be my position.”

VITT in New Brunswick

Last Wednesday, New Brunswick announced its first death connected to a rare form of blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Read more: AstraZeneca vaccine 1st dose recipients in limbo after some provinces press pause

The person, who was in their 60s, received a dose of the vaccine in mid-April and began showing symptoms seven days later.

It’s the first death and the second case of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) following vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in the province.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said at the time the province was also investigating two other cases.

— With files from Rebecca Lau

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