TORONTOTORONTO (Reuters) -The Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick will no longer offer first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, but will offer second doses using current supplies and future deliveries, the provinces said on Thursday.
Most provinces made similar announcements on Monday and Tuesday, mainly citing concerns about supply, though officials in Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick said the move was also based on a rise in the incidence of rare blood clots linked to first doses of the vaccine.
Canada's vaccine supply has expanded significantly in recent weeks, mostly thanks to shipments from Pfizer. The country has distributed just over 20 million doses of various COVID vaccines, and 11.6% were AstraZeneca's vaccine.
Officials have said that people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine may be offered a second dose of another vaccine, an approach that is being studied in the United Kingdom and has been allowed in Germany since early April.
Even so, Canada received 655,000 doses of a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India on Thursday through the global vaccine buying system COVAX, and will begin distributing to provinces in coming days, officials said.
Provincial medical officers are in "very active discussions" about how many more AstraZeneca shots they needed for second doses, deputy chief public health officer Howard Njoo told reporters.
The country's decision to accept doses from COVAX has drawn criticism, as COVAX is the only way for many low-income countries to buy vaccines, and badly short of doses to distribute. Serum has cut exports in the face of a catastrophic surge of cases in India.
Officials have linked three deaths to the AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada.
Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.
(Reporting by Allison Martell, additional reporting by Steve Scherer, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)