Canada now has several coronavirus vaccine suppliers including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Astra-Zeneca. The Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccines have also arrived in Canada but have not yet been distributed here.
Although there have been extremely rare cases of blood clots forming with the latter two, resulting in the recent death of Canadian woman who had been given the AstraZeneca vaccine, Canadians have been repeatedly and consistently told by Health Canada, and by other medical and political officials to take the first vaccine available to them no matter what it is.
This week however, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), a panel of physicians and other vaccine experts, made a comment that has resulted in confusion among citizens, and some anger from medical officials.
Dr. Shelly Deeks, vice-chair of the committee, said in a low virus risk region, people might want to wait for availability of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, although those in higher risk situations should still take whatever is offered. The committee also suggested the AZ and eventually J&J, should be given to those over age 30.
During an interview Monday with the CTV network, NACI chair, Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, in trying to explain their advice made a comment that did not seem to help, “If for instance my sister got the AstraZeneca vaccine and died of a thrombosis when I know it could have been prevented and that she is not in a high risk area, I’m not sure I could live with it”.
Toronto’s Dr. Iris Gorfinkle, family physician, medical researcher, and commentator also tweeted that the risk level is acceptable adding “It is NACI’s mixed messaging that’s hard to fathom”,
Many citizens took to social media to express anger or confusion. Some wonder whether they had been duped into taking the Astra Zeneca, while others who have received an Astra-Zeneca dose are wondering if they should avoid the second shot. Still others who haven’t yet received any vaccine wonder if they should wait for the Pfizer or Moderna availability.
Questioned in Parliament about the NACI comments, Health Minister Patty Hajdu noted the federal agency Health Canada responsibilities included examination and approval of vaccines, while NACI provides advice on administering them. She said people with questions should consult with their own doctor or health care provider.
The Canadian Association of Pharmacists has said the NACI statements are unhelpful to the goal of getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible to end the spread of the virus. Health officials continue to stress that risks from COVID-19, including death, are far greater than any health risks from a vaccine.
- Canadian Press (City News): May 4/21: N ACI advice on ‘preferred vaccines’ for COVID 19 sparks confusion, anger
- CTV: J Dunham: May 4/21: NACI accused of contributing to confusion, hesitancy over ‘preferred’ vaccine guidance
- Montreal Gazette: K Thomas: Apr 27/21: Woman’s Astra-Zeneca related death in Quebec is first in Canada