With more than 1.35 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in New Brunswick since December 19, 2020, reports to Public Health have identified 96 adverse events considered serious, or about 0.007% of the total.
They include incidents of heart inflammation, a kind of facial palsy known as Bell’s palsy and vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia or VITT, also described as a rare type of blood clot.
But the benefits of the vaccine appear to far outweigh the risk of COVID-19 infection, says Dr. Robert Stevenson, a cardiologist at the New Brunswick Heart Center.
As of December 14, Canada had reported a total of 1,845,256 COVID-19 cases and 29,969 deaths. New Brunswick has recorded 9,973 cases and 144 deaths.
More than 82 percent of New Brunswickers eligible for a COVID vaccine have received two doses, and more than 10 percent have already received booster shots.
According to Health Canada, side effects following a vaccination can include any unintended effects, including a rash or headache. Serious events are described as fatal, life threatening, or resulting in hospitalization, significant disability or birth defect.
Serious vaccine-related events that have been reported in New Brunswick break down as follows:
- 41 cases of myocarditis / pericarditis including 19 cases requiring hospitalization
- 22 cases of Bell’s palsy, including one that required hospitalization.
- 33 cases of blood clots, including 17 cases which required hospitalization and led to two deaths.
The two deaths, a person in their 60s and a person in their 50s, occurred in May, and both were associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On March 29, 2021, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization advised against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults under 55 years of age.
And on May 13, 2021, New Brunswick announced that it would stop giving AstraZeneca as a first dose.
The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says the public has a right to know about any possible reaction that may occur with any drug they are considering taking.
“We want people to be comfortable getting the immunization, so please, if you have any questions, ask them,” said Dr. Mark MacMillan.
MacMillan said it’s also important to put side effect reports in context.
“We have to understand that these vaccines have been given to millions and millions of people around the world,” he said.
“This is why we are actually monitoring these events to find out what they are and to see if the numbers start to increase to a worrying amount.
“And at this point, the numbers that we have, while unfortunate, seem very, very rare.”
Canada’s numbers released weekly
Every Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada releases updated national data on adverse reactions following vaccination.
Information on serious events is disaggregated by age group, type of reaction and associated vaccine.
As of December 3, Canada’s surveillance system had recorded 6,581 serious reactions among 61.5 million doses of the vaccine, a rate of 0.011%.
Dr Karina Top said this data does not prove a link in all cases, but overall it is an important early warning system.
“In reality, the point is to cast a wide net to research unusual new health problems that arise after vaccination,” said Top, associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at Dalhousie University.
“Although we are not sure if the vaccine is the cause.”
Top said New Brunswick’s numbers were all in the range of what’s happening in other jurisdictions.
“There is nothing that concerns me particularly,” she said.
Stevenson, at the Saint John Heart Center, described the vaccine incident reports of mycocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) as rare.
“If we look at serious COVID infections, we find that severe heart failure, including myocarditis, is seen in about 50% of cases that die and in about 3% of severe cases that survive,” he said. he declares.
“It is clear that those who die are more likely to have poor heart function as part of multi-organ system failure.”
Public Health says anyone offered an mRNA-COVID-19 vaccine should be made aware of the risks of heart complications.
In addition, patients should be advised to seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or a feeling of a rapid, throbbing, or pulsating heartbeat.
Stevenson also encourages patients to talk to their healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, nurses, and physicians.
“I think the best decisions are made on an individual basis,” he said.
“It is no different from many other treatments for illnesses. All drugs have potential side effects.”
Busy family doctor reports no serious reactions
Saint John family doctor Mike Simon said doctors know they are required to report any serious vaccine-related event.
He says that so far in his practice, none of his patients who have received the COVID-19 vaccine have complained of symptoms that would require hospitalization or public health notification.
Most of the time, he said, patients feel pain in the arms near the injection site or are sick for a day or two.
“Some people feel like they’ve had the flu for 24 or 36 hours, but there’s nothing else.”