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UPDATE: P.E.I. lifts pause on AstraZeneca vaccine for those 55 and over

Dr. Heather Morrison is P.E.I.'s chief public health officer.
Dr. Heather Morrison is P.E.I.'s chief public health officer. - contributed



P.E.I. has taken its finger off the pause button when it comes to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

During her weekly COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief public health officer, said effective immediately the vaccine is available at 12 partner pharmacies across P.E.I. for those 55 years of age and older.

“For instance, if someone wants to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, they may be able to get an earlier appointment by booking at a pharmacy,’’ Morrison said. “Alternatively, they can wait to get an appointment at a public clinic where the Moderna and Pfizer products are being administered.’’

Morrison said the decision to proceed with offering the AstraZeneca vaccine is based on what other provinces in Canada are doing.

During an unscheduled briefing on March 29, Morrison announced the province was suspending all vaccinations involving AstraZeneca following a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to put a pause on giving the vaccine to people under the age of 55. It stemmed from blood clots that some people had experienced in Europe.

Morrison said 7,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have arrived with more coming later this month. She also said during the briefing that the vaccine has been administered safely to millions of people around the world but acknowledged some people might be hesitant.

“We’ll see what the uptake is here and we’ll make adjustments (to the vaccine rollout) as needed going forward.’’

Possible reactions
During her briefing, Morrison also addressed the issue of having an allergic reaction to the other COVID-19 vaccines.

“In P.E.I., we are currently immunizing people against 15 different diseases, including COVID-19,’’ Morrison said. “It is very rarely that an individual has a serious reaction to a vaccine, including anaphylaxis. In P.E.I., we report one to two serious reactions relating to anaphylaxis per year and that’s based on the thousands of vaccines we give in our normal vaccine programs.’’

There was an incident recently with the Pfizer vaccine in which a Kings County woman had a severe allergic reaction shortly after receiving her first dose.

Toni Lannigan of Montague, 32, who said she had no known allergies, had to be rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown after experiencing anaphylaxis following the vaccination.

Lannigan told The Guardian on Tuesday she is feeling better, but it will be a while before she will feel comfortable getting a vaccine for anything. Lannigan said she has been told not to get a booster shot (the second dose) for COVID-19.

However, Lannigan said she does not think Islanders should hesitate about getting a vaccine.

“I hope that Islanders won’t be apprehensive on getting the vaccine due to my reaction,’’ Lannigan said. “Everybody’s body works and reacts differently.’’

Morrison said staff at all vaccine clinics and pharmacies are trained to deal with an allergic reaction should one happen.

Islanders who get vaccinated for COVID-19 are required to remain in the vaccination clinic for a minimum of 15 minutes following a vaccination to ensure they don’t experience any adverse effects.

Vaccine rollout
As of Saturday, 27,448 doses of vaccines were administered to Islanders, and things are starting to ramp up.

Morrison said this week will be the biggest one yet in terms of getting needles into arms.

The plan is to administer 7,200 doses of vaccine this week or an average of 1,200 per day over the next six days.

She added that P.E.I. remains on track to offer the first dose of the vaccine to every Islander 16 years of age and older by the end of June and both doses by the fall.

Marion Dowling, P.E.I.’s chief nursing officer, said information on when specific age groups can call and book an appointment is available at www.princeedwardisland.ca/getthevaccine.

Atlantic bubble
Morrison said the plan right now is still to reopen the Atlantic bubble on April 19, but there are a number of benchmarks officials will be watching before giving the ultimate green light.

Public health officials and epidemiologists are looking at the overall case counts in the region, ability to contain outbreaks, any cases that might be unlinked and the prevalence of outbreaks related to variants of concern.

Morrison said one of the reasons why April 19 was selected as the potential reopening day was to see if numbers went up following Easter weekend, a time when people tend to gather more.

“Usually, we would anticipate seeing an increase in cases of symptoms within the next week,’’ Morrison said.

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Around the region
Following are the COVID-19 case numbers from the Atlantic provinces, as of Tuesday, April 6:

• Prince Edward Island: no new cases, eight active cases

• Nova Scotia: six new cases, 36 active cases.

• New Brunswick: three new cases, 162 active cases.

• Newfoundland and Labrador: no new cases, three active cases.

Need to know
Following is information on booking vaccine appointments:

• Islanders aged 60-64 can book an appointment this week. The 65-69 age group booked last week.

• Islanders in the 55- to 59-year-old age group will be able to book as of Monday, April 12, depending on their birth month. Check www.princeedwardisland.ca/getthevaccine for more information.

Posted by Prince Edward Island Government on Tuesday, 6 April 2021

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