In a statement Tuesday, Dr Deena Hinshaw said the woman died of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). This is Alberta’s first vaccine-related death. The woman has not been identified to protect the “privacy of the grieving family,” Hinshaw said in the statement.
“While any death is tragic, it is important to remember that the risk of dying or suffering other serious consequences from COVID-19 remains far greater than the risk from the AstraZeneca vaccine. “
Hinshaw said the woman was only the second confirmed case of VIIT in the province. Over 253,000 doses of AstraZeneca or CoviSHIELD that have been administered in Alberta.
Although extremely rare, VITT differs from a typical blood clot in that it can cause cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), where the veins that drain blood from the brain are blocked and can potentially cause fatal bleeding.
The National Advisory Council on Immunization estimates that VITT occurs at a rate of 1 in 100,000 injections. As of Monday, there were seven reported cases of VITT in Canada and only one other death – a 54-year-old woman from Quebec.
Hinshaw said the risk of COVID-19 is much greater than the risk of VITT.
“Albertans aged 50 to 59 who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are 350 times more likely to die from this infection than to suffer from VITT after an AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said in the statement.
“They are also at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than to have VITT after receiving AstraZeneca. “
Health Canada has said the AstraZeneca vaccine meets its strict safety standards and continues to monitor side effects to ensure the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.