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Ontario stops administering of first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19

Christian Fernsby |
Canada's most populous province announced on Tuesday it will stop administering of the first doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine due to increased reports of blood clots.

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"This decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine," said Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams.

At least 12 cases of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia have been confirmed out of more than 2 million doses given. Three women have died in connection with the condition.

Ontario is preparing guidance for people who already received the first dose of AstraZeneca on what to do next, Williams said. Ontario reported there are 49,280 doses of the shot remaining in the province out of over 707,000 received.

The decision to pause is also based on the increased and reliable supply of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and the downward trend in cases. "We are also seeing early promising results of administering two doses of different vaccines and have asked the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide direction on the interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines," Dr. Williams said.

Ontario's announcement comes hours after Alberta province said it won't give out more first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being because there aren't any confirmed shipments coming.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was being offered to individuals aged 40 and up at numerous pharmacies in Ontario.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged provinces to maintain strict public health measures until COVID-19 case counts are much lower than they are now so that Canadians can enjoy a "one-dose summer." Trudeau told a press conference that with the steady supply of vaccines now streaming into the country, there will be enough shots to immunize every eligible Canadian with at least one dose by the end of June.

He said tough public health restrictions, like the lockdowns in Ontario, should be kept in place for the foreseeable future to drive COVID-19 case counts to more manageable levels. "We can have a better summer, a one-dose summer."

Trudeau said provinces should begin to lift public health restrictions only once 75 percent of the adult population has had at least one vaccine dose. He said that a one-dose summer would be followed by a "two-dose fall," when many more Canadians will have access to a second booster COVID-19 shot.

As of May 9, 2021, at 8:00 p.m., over 6.2 million vaccine doses have been administered across the province, with over 92 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and over and 91 per cent of residents aged 75 to 79 having received at least one dose. More than 48 per cent of the population aged 18 and over have received at least one dose and over 393,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including 95 per cent of long-term care residents.

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