British Columbia

B.C. reports 1st case of rare blood-clotting disorder in woman who received AstraZeneca vaccine

B.C. recorded 694 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Thursday, a one-day increase, despite cases generally trending downward over the last few weeks.

Woman in her 40s in stable condition and being treated in Vancouver Coastal Health region

Nurse Melissa Townsend, right, administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site in Coquitlam, B.C., on May 5. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

B.C. has recorded its first case of a vaccine-induced thrombosis related to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, a rare side effect of what health officials maintain is still a highly effective vaccine.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix made the announcement at a news conference in the Fraser Health region on Thursday — while also announcing 694 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death, a one-day increase, despite cases generally trending downward over the last few weeks.

Henry said the affected woman, who was in her 40s and in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, is now stable, emphasizing the condition is extremely rare and can be treated. She said the woman noticed her symptoms five or six days after receiving a dose of AstraZeneca and went to her doctor, who, suspecting it might be a condition related to the vaccine, conducted a diagnostic blood test that revealed low platelet counts.

Symptoms to the rare side effect include a persistent severe headache, chest or abdominal pain, shortness of breath and swelling or redness in a limb. But Henry emphasized the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, and has been used to curb major increases in cases in places like the U.K. and Whistler.

Henry said symptoms usually appear four to 28 days after receiving the vaccine, and are far more common following the first dose than the second dose.

WATCH | B.C.'s provincial health officer says AstraZeneca is safe and effective

B.C.'s provincial health officer says her friends and family have taken AstraZeneca

CBC News BC

2 months ago
1:57
Dr. Bonnie Henry says the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective despite B.C. recording its first case of a vaccine-induced thrombosis. 1:57

"We can be confident that those who have received an AstraZeneca vaccine here in B.C., it is an excellent vaccine. Take a deep breath and be assured this is rare and physicians know what to do," she said, adding the chance of a blood clot is around one in 100,000.

"I recognize it can be alarming to hear of this blood clot [...] My family and friends have received the AstraZeneca vaccine as have millions around the world and it is the right thing to do."

Henry said significant doses of Pfizer and Moderna doses are arriving soon, although the AstraZeneca vaccine remains an important part of B.C.'s vaccine rollout.

Thursday's news conference comes after the province recorded 572 new cases on Wednesday — the lowest daily new case count in B.C. since March 20 — and no deaths.

Hospitalizations on Thursday are now at 457, an 11 per cent drop in one week and the lowest number since April 20.

The figures are positive signs as British Columbia continues its battle against the third wave of the novel coronavirus, and, Dix said, the falling numbers of patients in hospital is "a huge relief" to health-care workers, though previously cancelled non-urgent surgeries cannot yet be rebooked.

New vaccine clinics coming to hot spot neighbourhoods

In an interview with CBC's On the Coast, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said  about 43 per cent of those currently eligible for vaccine have received first doses. 

"We're progressing through our immunization very well," she said. 

"Infection rates are declining, hospitalizations are declining and critical care admissions have also declined over the last little while."

"Certainly immunization is a really, really big part of it."

Henry said that by end of day Thursday, B.C. would have administered its two millionth vaccine dose. She said the province will soon look at reducing the gap between the first and second doses given a rapidly increasing supply of vaccine.

People in B.C. aged 49 and above can now receive a vaccine.

Dix said B.C. will be rapidly dropping the age eligibility for vaccination and encouraged all adults in B.C. to register online.

"We're going to be moving through the age cohorts very quickly, particularly in hot spot areas," said Dix, as he repeatedly urged people to "register, register, register."

Later Thursday, the province said people 40 and above will be invited to receive the vaccine as early as next week. People 46 and above will be invited to receive the vaccine on Friday.

Vancouver Coastal Health said it will offer targeted vaccinations to people 30 and older who reside in Cedar Cottage, Grandview Woodland, Hastings Sunrise, Kensington, Killarney, Renfrew-Collingwood, Sunset and Victoria Fraserview — all considered high transmission neighbourhoods for COVID-19.

The clinic will take place at the Killarney Community Centre from May 8 to 14, May 17 to 21 and again from May 25 to 28. Doses will be given by appointment only, with eligible people being asked to register online.

Interior Health said that all people aged 18 and above living in the Golden local health area will now be invited to book their first dose of vaccine. Vaccinations will take place at the curling rink in Golden, from May 8 to May 16. Residents are also asked to register online.

Grocery workers aged 18 and up are now eligible to register for a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine in the Fraser Health region.

All workers, whether they are unionized or not, will get information from their employers on how to register and book appointments online, as well as an access code. Staff must provide identification and proof of employment, such as a pay stub or work identification, when they arrive for an appointment.

Henry said the province is currently looking at how to rapidly vaccinate a large number of people living in COVID-19 hot- spot areas like Surrey.

Henry confirmed Wednesday that teens will now be part of B.C.'s immunization plan after Health Canada approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people as young as 12.

Henry said about 300,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 in B.C. will now be eligible to receive vaccines, possibly before the end of the school year, although the details are still being worked out.

Currently, anyone 18 and older in British Columbia can register for their vaccination now if they have not already done so. This can be done online through the "Get Vaccinated" portal, by calling 1-833-838-2323, or in person at any Service B.C. location.

The province also announced earlier this week that pregnant British Columbians aged 16 and older are now eligible to book a shot.

Henry said there is currently no plan to introduce a vaccine passport in B.C.

Restrictions remain

To help curtail the spread of COVID-19, the B.C. government has restricted non-essential travel between provincial health regions and those restrictions remain in place until the end of the May 24 long weekend.

Residents cannot book accommodations or camping sites outside their zone and BC Ferries has stopped accepting bookings for recreational vehicles such as campers and trailers.

A list of travel reasons that are considered essential is available on the government's website.

Police are setting up roadblocks at access points to health regions and people who disobey the current travel order can be fined.

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To hear Dr. Reka Gustafson's interview on CBC's On the Coast, click here:

B.C.'s Deputy Provincial Health Officer and head of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, Dr Reka Gustafson. 10:21

With files from the Canadian Press

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