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Coronavirus latest: Canada suspends use of AstraZeneca shot for under-55s

Canada has suspended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for younger adults as a “precautionary measure” following concerns in Europe the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization said in a statement on Monday it recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine “should not be used in adults under 55 years of age at this time” while the shot’s role in potential “rare cases of serious blood clots” is investigated further.

Instances of these blood clots, recently reported in Europe in individuals who had taken the AstraZeneca shot, have “primarily” been in women under the age of 55 years, although some cases in men had occurred, Naci said in its statement. “The rate of this adverse event is still to be confirmed,” it said.

Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor, said at a press conference on Monday that authorities “still don’t have enough information” to say whether the risks outweigh the benefits for younger adults, but added that for people aged 80 years and older, “we see it is actually working pretty well.”

Canadian provinces including Manitoba and Prince Edward Island said they would immediately suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on younger adults.

Earlier this month, more than a dozen European countries paused or limited use of the AstraZeneca shot after a rare and severe combination of blood clots to the brain, a low platelet count and bleeding was observed in a limited number of patients. Some of the patients died. The UK also registered some of these cases but did not pause or limit the shot’s use.

The European Medicines Agency probed whether any link between the shot and the overall risk of blood clots existed, but determined there wasn’t one. Still, the regulator has left the door open to there being a possible link between the rare combination of side effects and the vaccine. Surveillance is continuing, but most countries have resumed administering the jab.

The pause dealt a severe blow to Europe’s ailing vaccination campaign, which lags behind that of the US and the UK. Throughout the crisis, both the EMA and the World Health Organization reiterated that the shot’s benefits outweighed its potential risks — even if a link between rare and serious blood clots and the shot is eventually demonstrated.

AstraZeneca has stressed its vaccine is safe and has been administered to millions across the world, with both real-world and clinical evidence showing it is safe and effective.

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