A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta Health Services is running out of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that it had been making available to younger people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta Health Services is running out of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that it had been making available to younger people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL

B.C.’s frontline worker vaccine program in flux as AstraZeneca use paused for under-55s

Issue caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine is called vaccine-induced pro-thrombotic immune thrombocytopenia

The future of the vaccine program for frontline workers, meant to run in tandem with B.C.’s age-based rollout, remains uncertain, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday (March 29).

The news came just after Canada’s federal immunization experts said they would be pausing use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55.

“Over this past week, a signal was detected in younger people in Europe using the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Henry said. “While the instances are rare, this is a very rare with tens of millions of doses of this vaccine being used, we are taking the precaution in suspending the use of this vaccine for people who are under age 55 for the next few days.”

The specific issue caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine is called vaccine-induced pro-thrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT). Henry said there have been less than 30 cases identified around the world, primarily in Europe. Overall, there have been 523 adverse effects following immunization in B.C., largely allergic and anaphylactic reactions. A total of 699,092 doses have been administered so far.

“But it is a serious condition, and could lead to serious outcomes,” she said. The Public Health Agency of Canada calls VIPIT “a rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets.”

Henry said that people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine more than 20 days ago should not be concerned.

“If you have received the AstraZeneca vaccine and you develop symptoms that are concerning such as headaches or swelling… you can seek medical attention,” she said. “It is very rare and it is unlikely to see any cases here in British Columbia and in Canada.”

The condition can be tested for, Henry said, and treated.

As far as B.C.’s frontline vaccination program goes, it’s unclear what will happen next. Surrey teachers who had appointments to be vaccinated Monday received Pfizer in place of AstraZeneca.

“We will be looking at how we use AstraZeneca vaccine that’s coming in and yes, it may be that we’ll put it towards the age-based program knowing that this risk is not seen in people over age 55, or at least not yet,” Henry said. “But that’s much to be determined. By later this week we’ll have a better idea of how we can use that.”

READ MORE: Canada to pause Oxford-AstraZeneca shots for under-55s

READ MORE: B.C. reports more than 2,500 COVID cases over the weekend as variants continue to spread

READ MORE: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

READ MORE: B.C. announces amendments to school mask mandate amid COVID surge


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

CNC’s Applied Research and Innovation had partnered with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cariboo Agricultural Research Alliance and Mackin Creek Farm after receiving funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to research a number of solutions potentially extending northern growing seasons. (Photo submitted)
Ways to extend growing season in B.C.’s north explored by College of New Caledonia in Quesnel

Low-cost supplemental LED lighting appears to benefit plant growth

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read