Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on May 13, 2021

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

May 13, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Vaccines are an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19 and will help end the pandemic. Getting vaccinated will help reduce infection rates, ease pressure on the health system and create the conditions that will allow us to lift restrictions so that we can get back to important social, economic and recreational activities.

Working together, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health and other health professionals across the country are closely monitoring vaccine safety, effectiveness and use to adapt approaches for optimising COVID-19 vaccination across Canada. As the science and situation evolves, we are committed to providing timely, clear and evidence-informed guidance in order to keep everyone in Canada safe and healthy. Canada is continuing to monitor and assess reports of rare but serious medical events involving blood clots (thrombosis) with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) (TTS) following immunization. This blood clotting disorder, following vaccination with COVISHIELD/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, is also known as Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) when confirmed by a positive laboratory result for antibodies against platelet factor 4 (PF4). As of May 12, there have been 28 reports of TTS in Canada, of which 18 were positive for PF4 antibodies, meeting the definition of VITT; laboratory testing on the remaining 10 TTS cases is ongoing. Based on available evidence to date, PHAC has estimated the rate of VITT in Canada as 1 in 83,000 doses administered. As investigations continue for additional cases, pending PF4 antibody results, this rate could increase to 1 in 55,000.

I recognise that many Canadians who received their first dose of AstraZeneca have concerns and questions, including whether it is possible to receive a different vaccine for their second dose. We know that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to be more effective with an interval of 12 weeks, so those who have received one dose are recommended to wait for at least 12 weeks before receiving a second vaccine. Generally, vaccine series are completed with the same vaccine, but in some cases, they can be completed with a different one. As well, it may be possible that using a different vaccine type could result in a greater immune response, providing broader protection against COVID-19.

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