If you were offered a shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine right now, would you take it? If you’d hesitate, you’re not alone. Many Canadians would rather hold out for Pfizer (or Moderna) mRNA vaccines, rather than take AstraZeneca.
The Great COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma is a problem we’re lucky to have, but is weighty nonetheless. To resolve my own dilemma, I dug into the latest science to understand the risk of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine, how risky it is to remain unvaccinated for a few more months, and the benefits I (and others) stand to gain from vaccination.
For me, the answer was clear — get the shot, ASAP. This decision reflects both safety and efficacy considerations. My risk of a vaccine-related blood clot is lower than the risks I face from being exposed to COVID-19 over two months. In terms of efficacy, it turns out that we can’t assume that Pfizer is a better bet than AstraZeneca. Science communicators have been warning us to avoid making “apples to oranges” comparisons between Phase III trials, and it’s time to start listening.
My risk calculus applies to my context — a healthy woman in her forties, in a region with moderate COVID-19 levels, with low to moderate exposure to COVID-19 through my three young children who are attending school. The information below can and should be adapted to your situation, so that you can make an informed choice.
So many names! The AstraZeneca vaccine is also known as COVISHIELD (made in India), Vaxzevria, and Oxford-AstraZeneca.