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A vial of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine sits on a table at a vaccination centre in Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in London on Feb. 18, 2021.HENRY NICHOLLS/Reuters

Austria was one of 17 European countries to receive doses from a batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that Austrian authorities have stopped using while investigating a death and an illness following their use, a senior health official said on Tuesday.

A 49-year-old nurse in Zwettl, a town northwest of Vienna, died as a result of severe coagulation disorders after receiving the vaccine. Another nurse from Zwettl who is 35 and received a dose from the same batch, ABV 5300, developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering.

“We informed all European colleagues in the European network as this batch, which amounted to roughly a million doses in total, was sent to 17 European countries,” Christa Wirthumer-Hoche, the head of Austrian public health agency AGES’ medicines market supervisory body, told a news conference.

The European Medicines Agency’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), which monitors the safety of medicines, discussed the case on Monday, said Wirthumer-Hoche, who also heads EMA’s management board.

She did not identify the countries or say what steps, if any, they had taken. AstraZeneca has said it is in contact with Austrian authorities and will fully support the investigation.

Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson: Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get in Canada?

Canada pre-purchased millions of doses of seven different vaccine types, and Health Canada has approved four so far for the various provincial and territorial rollouts. All the drugs are fully effective in preventing serious illness and death, though some may do more than others to stop any symptomatic illness at all (which is where the efficacy rates cited below come in).

PFIZER-BIONTECH

  • Also known as: Comirnaty
  • Approved on: Dec. 9, 2020
  • Efficacy rate: 95 per cent with both doses in patients 16 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 15-year-olds
  • Traits: Must be stored at -70 C, requiring specialized ultracold freezers. It is a new type of mRNA-based vaccine that gives the body a sample of the virus’s DNA to teach immune systems how to fight it. Health Canada has authorized it for use in people as young as 12.

MODERNA

  • Also known as: SpikeVax
  • Approved on: Dec. 23, 2020
  • Efficacy rate: 94 per cent with both doses in patients 18 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 17-year-olds
  • Traits: Like Pfizer’s vaccine, this one is mRNA-based, but it can be stored at -20 C. It’s approved for use in Canada for ages 12 and up.

OXFORD-ASTRAZENECA

  • Also known as: Vaxzevria
  • Approved on: Feb. 26, 2021
  • Efficacy rate: 62 per cent two weeks after the second dose
  • Traits: This comes in two versions approved for Canadian use, the kind made in Europe and the same drug made by a different process in India (where it is called Covishield). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s latest guidance is that its okay for people 30 and older to get it if they can’t or don’t want to wait for an mRNA vaccine, but to guard against the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder, all provinces have stopped giving first doses of AstraZeneca.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON

  • Also known as: Janssen
  • Approved on: March 5, 2021
  • Efficacy rate: 66 per cent two weeks after the single dose
  • Traits: Unlike the other vaccines, this one comes in a single injection. NACI says it should be offered to Canadians 30 and older, but Health Canada paused distribution of the drug for now as it investigates inspection concerns at a Maryland facility where the active ingredient was made.

How many vaccine doses do I get?

All vaccines except Johnson & Johnson’s require two doses, though even for double-dose drugs, research suggests the first shots may give fairly strong protection. This has led health agencies to focus on getting first shots to as many people as possible, then delaying boosters by up to four months. To see how many doses your province or territory has administered so far, check our vaccine tracker for the latest numbers.

The Anglo-Swedish company has said all batches are subject to strict and rigorous quality controls and that there have been “no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine”.

An autopsy of the nurse is being carried out and Wirthumer-Hoche said she expected the results next week.

European Union regulators at the end of January approved the product, saying it was effective and safe to use, while the World Health Organization in mid-February listed it for emergency use.

Adverse reactions seen in trials were short-lived for the most part and blood clotting problems were not reported.

A safety assessment by Germany’s vaccine regulator of more than 360,000 people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine last month concluded that adverse reactions were in line with the safety profile described in clinical trials.

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