MONTREAL (CityNews) — A top physician in Quebec says the recent death of a woman due to a blood clot after she got the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, while extremely rare, was to be expected.
According to Dr. Marc Rodger, the physician-in-chief at the McGill University Health Centre, the published research shows one-in-three cases of vaccine-induced thrombosis results in a fatality.
Francine Boyer, 54, was the first Canadian to lose her life from a blood clot after she received the AstraZeneca shot.
Boyer was identified by her family in a statement issued late Tuesday.
“Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with the family. It’s a real tragedy,” said Rodger.
“Unfortunately it is something we did expect. This complication is very rare, one in 100,0000 vaccines induce thrombosis. And with use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and given the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Quebec and in Canada, we were expecting some cases.
“This is a tragedy without question.”
Boyer’s husband, Alain Serres, says the mother of two and grandmother, originally from Saint-Rémi, Que., died on Apr. 23.
Serres posted a tribute to his late wife on social media, saying “I love you and I will love you forever!”
He revealed they’d received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Apr. 9 and that over the next few days, Boyer experienced “great fatigue along with headaches” but he had no side effects.
Health Canada has authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for people 18 and up after concluding it is safe and effective despite evidence suggesting it may cause blood clots in rare cases. A national advisory panel has suggested the shot can be offered to those 30 and over if they don’t want to wait for a different vaccine.
Quebec is administering the vaccine to people between the ages of 45 and 79.
“It is really a friendly-fire problem,” said Rodger. “The vaccine induces the formation of an antibody that activates the blood-clotting cells — the platelets — and consumes them. And with activations of the blood-clotting cells, you can get blockages of arteries or veins and very serious illness from the blockage of arteries or veins.
“But again, emphasis is, this is very rare. One in 100,000. The same as one’s lifetime risk of being struck by lightning.”
WATCH: Full interview with Dr. Marc Rodger
Rodger and other health officials are attempting to assure the public that the benefits of getting the vaccine vastly outweigh its shortfalls.
“The Comite Immunization Quebec has done work that shows there’s a clear net benefit of those 45 and up when we compare the risks of complications from COVID versus the risks of getting complications from the vaccine,” said Rodger.
“We have to counterbalance the tragedies that are happening every day in our hospitals as a consequence of COVID. Over 10,000 Quebecers have died as a consequence of COVID. Unfortunately we don’t have access to 100 per cent safe vaccinations yet. Even waiting a month in people 45 and up will lead to more COVID tragedies than vaccine tragedies.”
In a press conference on Tuesday, Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said there are four suspected cases of vaccine-related thrombosis being investigated in the province.
Dr. Rodger says it’s crucial to look out for signs of artery blockage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, change in vision or speech, leg or abdominal pain. These could arise within four to 20 days of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“These symptoms are very common symptoms but with artery or vein blockages they are not subtle, they tend to be very severe symptoms that will get you into the emergency room,” he said. “And once in the emergency room, doctors are aware of this complication, are looking out for it and will test you for it and treat you for it if they think you’ve got it.
“Expect some side effects in the first couple of days. It is not this complication.”
WATCH: Interview with thrombosis specialist Dr. Susan Kahn
–with files from The Canadian Press