'Informed consent': Doctors prepare to answer questions on COVID-19 vaccine

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Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause death or serious injury? That’s a common question for doctors and nurses trying to ensure patients know the facts before deciding whether or not to get the vaccine, said Dr. Chris Sarin.

“We’re very used to those questions,” said Sarin, deputy medical officer of health in Alberta for Indigenous Services Canada, who hopes people can get questions like this answered Wednesday at a provincewide town hall organized by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

The panel will include Dr. Evan Adams, deputy chief medical officer at Indigenous Services Canada; Alberta Health chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Indigenous elders Rod and Doreen Alexis.

When Sarin gets a question on safety, he describes the increased monitoring in place for this immunization campaign. Nurses are encouraged to report any bad reaction or death that happens up to 30 days after the vaccine, he said.

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“We track those events and we have had people feel unwell after the vaccine. We’ve had rashes and we’ve had some swelling,” he said. But at least on reserve, they have not had any serious reactions or deaths. If there is something serious, it’s reported to Alberta Health, which investigates and reports to a national committee. They’re watching for trends, anything that would cause them to vary the advice they’re currently giving patients.

Sarin said he’s confident in the vaccine clinical trials, but those involved tens of thousands of people. To see a very rare reaction, you need millions of doses, he said.

“Every vaccine is about informed consent, the risk and benefits,” he said. “Even if there is a signal (of rare serious injury or death), it doesn’t mean we would stop. It means we have to inform the individual. But there has been no death signal so far in Canada.”

As of March 12, Alberta Health received 143 reports about adverse events following vaccination out of 346,135 doses province wide. Those reports are being investigated.

Anyone can contribute a question for the town hall Wednesday by emailing it to yourhealthourstrength@gmail.com. The discussion will be live on Windspeaker Radio, Facebook.com/CFWE.FM and on the Edmonton Journal website, edmontonjournal.com.

The radio stations are 89.3 Edmonton, 98.5 Edmonton, 94.5 Ft. Mc Murray, 90.5 Lac La Biche, 96.7 Cold Lake/ St.Paul, 91.7 Joussard, 96.7 Moose Hills Region, 89.3 FM in Southern Alberta, Red Deer County 88.7 FM and 88.1 CJWE Calgary.

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For more on Alberta’s vaccine rollout, read our guide driven by reader questions.

  1. COVIShield vaccines arrived in Alberta last week. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says those doses are not linked to the reports of side effects in European countries.

    Hinshaw says Alberta’s AstraZeneca doses have not been linked to reports of side effects in European countries

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    Your questions answered — An Alberta guide to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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