New Brunswick sees first blood clot related to AstraZeneca vaccine, Atlantic bubble reopening pushed further into May

NEW BRUNSWICK – In a live press briefing from Fredericton on Tuesday, April 20, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health and Dorothy Shephard, minister of health, once again provided an update on COVID-19 in the province.

Russell announced New Brunswick has seen its first blood clot associated with low platelets known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) in a New Brunswicker between the ages of 30-39 who received the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine in mid-March.

Russell said the individual was vaccinated with Covishield prior to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommending those under the age of 55 not receive the vaccine.

The individual was treated and has recovered.

“Now, these reactions are extremely rare,” said Russell.  “We see them in approximately one in every 100,000 to 250,000 doses, but they do happen and they are treatable.

“While every adverse reaction is unfortunate, it’s important to keep in mind how rare these incidents are,” she added.

Russell went on to say to the risks associated with COVID-19 are much higher.

AstraZeneca clinics for those 55 and older will be moving ahead as planned, with Russell stating the complications for those who are 55 and older should they contract COVID-19 outweigh the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Due to the variants of COVID-19 taking centre stage in the pandemic, Russell said “travel is riskier now more than ever,” and if you can’t self-isolate for two full weeks totally away from anyone else on your return, then you “really shouldn’t travel”.

Tuesday also saw the first day in approximately four months with no new cases of the virus in New Brunswick.

Russell said as of Tuesday, 185,548 New Brunswickers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and over 45,000 residents were vaccinated last week.

She said she is watching the cases in Ontario with “alarm and concern”, and does not want to see the New Brunswick healthcare system stretched to its limits as the system in Ontario has been.

Shephard echoed Russell’s comments on travel, saying “the less we move, the less it’s spread”.

Shephard confirmed Ontario and the federal government have reached out for help in that beleaguered province, and said while it’s “wired into our DNA to want to help”, New Brunswick doesn’t have resources to share.  She did say what the province could offer, should anyone be willing to step-up, are medical professionals.

The federal government will cover all related costs (wages, travel, accommodation, etc.) for any retired healthcare professionals or healthcare professionals who are working in another field, to come to Ontario to assist. 

If you are willing to help, you can email or call 506-444-2882 during the day or 506-461-2880 after hours.

Shephard said the provincial vaccination rollout remains on schedule with 28 per cent of New Brunswickers and approximately 40 per cent of residents of Zone 4, the Edmundston region, having at least one dose on board.

Residents who are 65-years-old and older are now eligible for the vaccine, and can book an appointment at any Horizon or Vitalite Health Network vaccination clinic here, by calling 1-833-437-1424, or by contacting your local pharmacy.

Shephard said there are 19,000 spaces available in the next two weeks.

New Brunswick truckers who consistently leave the province are also eligible for a vaccine, and there is a dedicated phone line, 1-833-724-0088, exclusively for truck drivers to book their appointment.

On the heels of a teleconference of the Council of Atlantic Premiers Tuesday, all four Maritime provincial premiers have agreed to push the opening of the Atlantic bubble to further into the month of May, with no date currently set.

“Given present conditions in the region and elsewhere in Canada, premiers will also consider dates later in May 2021 for reducing travel restrictions,” states a press release.

The release also says discussions on the Atlantic bubble will happen again in the coming week.

For further details on COVID-19 in New Brunswick, click here.