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Epidemiologist says hospitalizations after vaccines nothing to worry about

As of Wednesday, 19 people in New Brunswick are in hospital due to COVID-19; 13 of them, or about 68 per cent, are in intensive care.

But the number that’s getting New Brunswickers talking is three.

Three of those hospitalized in the province for COVID-19 had already been vaccinated – one with both doses.

An epidemiologist says this is not entirely unexpected.

“It’s the same with any vaccine,” says Susanne Gulliver, senior epidemiologist with Dr. Wayne Gulliver and NewLab Clinical Research Inc.

“Your immune system has to learn how to fight this. It takes a while for it to proliferate throughout your body.”

When New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of Health announced the hospitalizations Saturday, she echoed this sentiment – stating that it typically takes 14 days from a second shot before a person is considered fully vaccinated.

Public Health has not released information on the severity of the symptoms experienced by the three residents, nor whether they’re in the ICU.

Gulliver says a vaccine’s clinical trial doesn’t account for the infinite variables found in the general population.

“Medications always work differently in the real world than they do in a clinical trial,” she says.

“That doesn’t mean that they’re not safe and they’re not effective, it’s just variation within people isn’t always accounted for.”

She says this fact also speaks to why we’re hearing of blood clot risk as vaccines roll out instead of that being discovered in clinical trials, going on to point out some methods of birth control come with a higher risk.

Read more:
Blood clot risks — Comparing COVID-19 vaccines with common medicines, travel and smoking

The province’s COVID-19 dashboard Wednesday says 150,895 New Brunswickers have been vaccinated with at least one dose.

Spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane says, as of April 3, the province had only seen 73 adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines after doling out 122,229 doses.

Only 10 of those considered serious.

“All adverse events are flagged and investigated,” he tells Global News in an emailed statement.

“These processes include meeting regularly to review the data with provincial and territorial partners, the regulator, research networks and medical advisors to ensure there are no safety issues that require action.

“Any unexpected safety concerns are detected quickly and acted upon immediately.”

Gulliver says, for the most part, there’s no need for people to be “shopping around” for which vaccine to take – save for those with a history of blood clots opting for another option over AstraZeneca, for now.

Read more:
AstraZeneca vaccine still safe despite ‘stronger link’ to blood clots, Health Canada says

“You’re more likely to get COVID and have a bad outcome than have a blood clot at this point,” says Gulliver.

When asked about vaccine hesitancy due to the perceived rapid turnaround time for COVID-19 vaccines, Gulliver points out that vaccines of this nature have actually been in the works for nearly 20 years – since the SARS outbreak.

“It’s a different animal but we had the groundwork laid.”

She says COVID-19 and the recent variants of concern (VOC) have people walking around with asymptomatic infections, spreading the disease unknowingly — something that may have led those three vaccinated New Brunswickers to be hospitalized.

“It’s entirely possible, especially considering the community spread we saw recently, that they were walking around asymptomatic with a COVID infection already (when they were vaccinated),” says Gulliver.

Public Health has not confirmed whether the individuals could have had COVID-19 at the time of injection.

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