“We have just welcomed our first patient who died of thrombosis, a cerebral thrombosis, following the AstraZeneca vaccination,” Dr Horacio Arruda said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“It’s a rare event. We knew it could happen,” added Arruda, who spoke in French.
In a statement, the woman’s family identified her as Francine Boyer, who she said received a dose of AstraZeneca, along with her husband, Alain Serres, on April 9. She died 2 weeks later.
“Ms. Boyer experienced extreme fatigue accompanied by headaches. She went to the nearest hospital and then, as her condition deteriorated, she was transferred to the Montreal Neurological Hospital Institute. Francine died of cerebral thrombosis, ”according to the press release, published in French on Tuesday evening.
The statement went on to say that Ms Boyer’s husband experienced no side effects and that the family “… would like to encourage people who receive a vaccine to remain vigilant for any unusual symptoms or reactions.”
Quebec officials said it was the first reported death in Canada of a person who developed a rare blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Covid-19 vaccines have been linked to blood clots in Europe and the UK, although health officials in that country have said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks. Likewise, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to that used by AstraZeneca’s vaccine, has been linked to the same rare blood clotting syndrome in the United States.
In a statement, Health Canada said it was continuing to investigate details of cases as part of its ongoing monitoring of the risk of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Quebec’s health minister said the province’s rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue uninterrupted for Quebecers aged 45 to 79. Christian Dube added that the province had distributed more than 400,000 doses to date and was investigating four cases of blood clots.
“We are sad about it but it is the price of the vaccination”, declared Dube during a press conference Tuesday in Quebec.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received his first injection of the AstraZeneca vaccine at an Ottawa pharmacy last week, along with his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.
Several members of the Trudeau cabinet, including some opposition leaders, have also received the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days.
Although Health Canada regulates the use of vaccines in Canada, each province can decide on its eligibility or choose not to distribute the vaccine.
Health Canada first approved AstraZeneca in February for all Canadians over 18, including seniors.
“Based on Health Canada’s review of data available in Europe, UK and AstraZeneca, no specific risk factors have been identified. Therefore, Health Canada is not restricting the use of the vaccine at this time. “Reads Health Canada’s latest vaccine update, posted April 14.
However, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has updated its vaccine guidelines twice after reviewing European data on adverse reactions.
Last week, NACI updated its AstraZeneca advice for the second time, saying it could be available to all Canadians 30 years of age or older. It had previously recommended that it be given only to people 55 years of age or older, although some provinces have already administered doses to those people 40 years and older.
But the independent expert panel also said that a vaccine using a different messenger RNA or mRNA-based technology, manufactured by either Pfizer or Moderna, should be “offered preferably” and that a full series. AstraZeneca vaccine should be used when an individual does not wish to wait for an mRNA vaccine.
Health Canada updated its labeling for the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 24 after “very rare reports of blood clots associated with low blood platelet levels following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine” were observed in global data .
All provinces and territories in Canada are currently receiving and distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine, including 1.5 million doses from the US stockpile earlier this month.
Canada has so far received over 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as it continues to grapple with vaccine supply and a devastating third wave of Covid-19 putting pressure on the healthcare system, particularly in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.