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Canada on track to accept Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine amid blood clot concerns

Six cases of blood clots possibly linked to 6.8m doses administered.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is still on track to accept its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson at month’s end even as American authorities recommend pausing those jabs.

U.S. federal agencies recommended suspending the use of the vaccine early Tuesday amid concerns over a small number of blood clots linked to the single-dose vaccine.

"Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centre for Disease Control said in a joint statement, referring to six possible cases out of 6.8 million doses administered.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution.”

The agencies will be reviewing the cases and assess what to do next on Wednesday.

“Obviously we’re following closely developments in the United States and we can assure everyone Health Canada will every step of the way put the health of Canadians first and foremost in any decisions we make around distributing vaccines,” Trudeau said after confirming Canada is still expecting to receive its first shipment from Johnson & Johnson at the end of April.

He added the country has signed contracts with enough other companies that it will be receiving 44 million doses by the end of June even without the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Americans’ suspension comes weeks after similar concerns about blood clots arose over the competing AstraZeneca plc vaccine.

Late last month Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under the age of 55.

Both companies have been manufacturing traditional viral vector vaccines, while Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. been manufacturing the newer messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

Amid concerns over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Canada’s chief health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, noted Health Canada has already been through a similar process of reviewing analysis of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I expect them to do the same due diligence, connecting to the international regulatory authorities like the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and gather information from them as well as the manufacturer,” she said during a media briefing.

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