Ontario confirms first case of rare blood clotting linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

On Friday, Ontario health officials confirmed the province’s first case of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) in a patient who received the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, making this the fourth case of VITT (out of more than 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine) that have been administered in Canada to date.

“The patient is a male in his 60s who had received his first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine. The patient has received treatment and is recovering at home. Additional details will not be publicly released to protect the patient’s privacy,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said in a statement.

Dr. Williams added that the province will continue to actively monitor the situation, as well as the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines.

“While these serious reactions remain extremely rare, we have a robust process in place to monitor for any adverse events and have taken steps to ensure that these events are identified and treated as quickly as possible,” Dr. Williams added. “All COVID-19 vaccines available in the province have been determined to be safe and effective by Health Canada, and have been shown to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

As of April 20, Ontario began offering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 40 and over at pharmacies and primary care settings. Social media posts show Gen Xers lining up to get the shot, even though, on March 29, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended — at that time — that provinces pause the use of the vaccine in people under 55 due to safety concerns (after reports of rare cases of blood clots in some patients in Europe, particularly younger women).

As of Friday, the province reported that 5,248,345 of COVID-19 doses have been delivered to the province, with 4,400,674 doses administered (meaning 83.8 per cent of doses delivered have been administered). Approximately 27.4 per cent of Ontarians have received at least one dose (the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines require two doses, a number of weeks apart, for full efficacy).

Also on Friday, the province reported 4,505 cases of COVID-19 with over 56,200 tests completed, including 1,257 new cases in Toronto, 1,232 in Peel, 412 in York Region, 247 in Ottawa, and 224 in Durham.

COVID variants are also on the rise, with the province recording 46,905 cases of Lineage B.1.1.7 (the U.K. variant), 134 cases of Lineage B.1.351 (the South African variant), and 224 cases of Lineage P.1 (the Brazilian variant).

There are 2,287 patients currently hospitalized in Ontario with COVID-19, with 818 patients in ICU due to COVID-related critical illness, and 593 patients in ICU on a ventilator due to COVID-related critical illness.

Last Friday, Premier Doug Ford’s government implemented stronger enforcements, travel restrictions, and public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. This initially included giving police officers and other provincial offences officers enhanced authority to require any individual to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence, as well as the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual’s reasons for leaving their home (which received widespread backlash on social media).

In a virtual press conference on Thursday morning, Premier Ford — who is currently isolating because one of his staff members tested positive for COVID-19 — said the province moved too fast in announcing the measures.

“I know that some of those measures, especially around enforcement, they went too far,” he said.

“Simply put, we got it wrong. We made a mistake. These decisions, they left a lot of people really concerned,” Ford added. “For that I am sorry, and I sincerely apologize.”

Ford noted that the latest federal budget didn’t include improvements to the Canada Recovery and Sickness Benefit that he hoped for, and that Ontario is now working on its own solution “to fill those gaps” for everyone in the province.

“We will come up with this program and again, it will be the best program in North America. We are working on solutions as we talk right now,” he said.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to TRNTO