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Concerns with AstraZeneca: Some Saskatchewan residents seek more clarity over booked appointments

Some Saskatchewan residents are looking for more clarity from the province in terms of what vaccine is being offered when they book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments online.

Brenda Farrell is a 66-year-old Regina woman who was scheduled to receive her vaccine on Friday.

She assumed she would be receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but when she arrived she was told she would be getting an AstraZeneca shot.

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“Two or three weeks ago they had the AstraZeneca vaccine at the drive-thru at Evraz Place for age my group,” Farrell said.

“I have an autoimmune disease and underlying medical conditions. I decided to opt out and book online because I knew they were offering Pfizer and Moderna at booked appointments.

“I feel so blindsided because nobody told me, nobody said anything publicly. They said to me, ‘Brenda, we made a midnight decision last night to switch out the Pfizer for booked appointments.’”

She refused the vaccine and decided she would try waiting in line at the drive-thru vaccination site at Evraz Place.

Farrell said she waited 90 minutes and was denied the Pfizer vaccine because of her age. Pfizer vaccines are currently available to those under the age of 55 in Saskatchewan. Anyone older is due to receive AstraZeneca.

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“I don’t know how any of them are going to react to my body. I’m scared of all of them, but I’m even more scared of AstraZeneca,” Farrell said.

“There’s so much negativity around that vaccine.”

Saskatoon resident David Brownlee is being told by his doctor there’s a strong chance that he has pancreatic cancer.

When the 64-year-old booked his vaccination appointment for Saturday he was expecting to receive the Pfizer vaccine – a recommendation by his doctor.

Like Farrell, Brownlee was told he would be receiving the AstraZeneca, which he refused.

He said he wasn’t the only person surprised to learn only the AstraZeneca was being offered at the clinic and that several people left without their shot.

Read more:
Age eligibility expands at Regina drive-thru vaccine clinic

“What I don’t understand and something that really got me confused is why isn’t our government being transparent about this?” Brownlee said.

“We’re wasting appointment times for people that may want to have AstraZeneca, but they’re also wasting my time.”

On Friday, the province did post on its website it would have to change vaccine brands if necessary after it was made aware that a shipment of 19,300 Moderna vaccines was being delayed.

“In order to accomplish this, vaccine brands may be changed at some clinics in order to remove any age-barriers that prevent immunization of younger residents,” the province said.

Click to play video: COVID-19 vaccinations in Saskatchewan to be expanded to first responders

“As patients arrive for their appointment, nurses are available to answer questions and ensure they are comfortable before proceeding with immunization.”

Throughout March, multiple countries put a temporary ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots in some people. The European Medicines Agency said most clots involved women under 60.

Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization have recommended the shot for those aged 55 and older. Officials say the vaccine is safe to take and that the benefits outweigh the risks.

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