‘Mild risk’ prompts Ontario to recommend Pfizer over Moderna for those aged 18-24

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An increase in cases of a rare heart condition in young adults who have received the COVID-19 Moderna vaccines has prompted Ontario to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech shots for those aged 18 to 24 “out of an abundance of caution.”

The province says the rise of myocarditis and pericarditis cases has been particularly observed among men in that age group. Between June and August, the province says the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis for men aged 18 to 24 following a second dose of Moderna was one in 5,000. There have been no fatalities.

“I’m not holding any facts back, there is a risk,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. 

In comparison, the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was one in 28,000.

However, Moore stressed that Moderna’s elevated risk is “very mild” and that two of his three young sons are in the 18-24 age range and both received the vaccine with “no concerns.”

“Moderna is an excellent product,” he said. “I’ve complete confidence in it.”

The province’s recommendation is preferential and people can still take the Moderna vaccine if they choose to.

The risk of a heart condition from the vaccine is still substantially lower than the risk of a heart condition should a person contract COVID-19, Moore explained.

Only two in every 100,000 people experience the side effect, Moore said. And they typically recover quickly with “simple over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen,” he said. There have been no hospitalizations and no fatalities.

Meanwhile, Moore said 11 in every 100,000 people contract “moderate to severe” COVID-19 and “often end up needing hospitalization.” He said that between 10 and 20 per cent of those people requiring hospitalization have heart inflammation. 

While Moore said he had personal concerns that the province’s recommendation might make some people even more vaccine hesitant, he felt it was necessary to build public trust.

“I hope the public will realize we’re trying to be as transparent as possible.”

Unvaccinated people make up 67% of new cases

On Wednesday, Ontario reported 495 new cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of eight more people with the illness. 

Of the 453 cases today with a known vaccination status:

  • 302, or 67 per cent, were in those who are unvaccinated.

  • 36, or about eight per cent, had a single dose.

  • 115, or 25 per cent, had two doses.

The seven-day average of daily cases rose slightly to 610, up from 606 yesterday, though it has been trending downward since roughly the start of September.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health’s daily provincial update:

Newly reported school-related cases: 170; 159 students and 11 staff. Some 808 schools, or 16.6 per cent of Ontario’s 4,844 publicly-funded schools, currently have at least one confirmed case. Among them are 128 schools with concurrent outbreaks (meaning transmission occurred within the schools). One school in the province is closed due to COVID-19.

Tests completed in the last 24 hours: 36,404.

Provincewide test positivity rate: 1.7 per cent.

Active cases: 4,989.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 172, with 123 needing a ventilator to breathe.

Death toll to date: 9,723.

Vaccinations: 38,297 doses were administered by public health units on Tuesday. About 86.1 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 years or older have now received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 80.7 per cent have received two doses.

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