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132 new COVID-19 cases reported in Waterloo, total number climbs past 8,000 – Global News

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Waterloo Public Health reported 132 new positive tests for the coronavirus on Friday, raising the total number of cases in the area to 8,088.

This is the lowest number of new cases that the agency has announced since Jan. 3.

Read more:
10,000 COVID-19 vaccinations completed in Waterloo Region

On the flip side, another 182 people were cleared of the virus, lifting the total number of resolved cases to 6,862.

There have been no new COVID-19-related deaths reported in four days leaving the death toll in Waterloo Region sitting at 179.


Click to play video '2nd case of South African COVID-19 variant appears in Canada'



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2nd case of South African COVID-19 variant appears in Canada


2nd case of South African COVID-19 variant appears in Canada

The number of active cases drops to 1,045 but there are now 37 people in area hospitals as a result of COVID-19, including 20 people who are in intensive care.

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The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered in Waterloo Region 10,068 times, with 1,009 of those coming on Thursday.

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There were no new COVID-19 outbreaks announced for Waterloo Region, however, there are still 42 remaining which continues to be a record number.

Elsewhere, Ontario reported 2,998 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 231,308.

Friday’s case count is lower than Thursday’s, which saw 3,326 new infections. On Wednesday, 2,961 new cases were recorded and 2,903 on Tuesday.

Read more:
7 patients transferred to Grand River Hospital in Kitchener from across the GTA

“Locally, there are 800 new cases in Toronto, 618 in Peel, 250 in York Region, 161 in Waterloo and 153 in Niagara,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

The death toll in the province has risen to 5,289, after 100 more deaths were reported — marking the highest daily number of deaths.

However, the Ontario government noted some of the deaths included in Friday’s report are from one public health unit and are also from earlier in the pandemic that the provincial database had missed.

–With files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Computer programmer shares workaround to Alberta COVID-19 vaccine booking issues – Global News

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UPDATE: As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, it appeared the website had been changed and the workaround was no longer effective.

Hundreds of people said they were able to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments for their loved ones Wednesday thanks to a workaround published online by a computer programmer.

It all started Wednesday morning when Kory Mathewson‘s family logged on to the Alberta Health Services website to book appointments for Grandma Mufty and Grandpa Bill.

The first appointment was booked after a few tries but getting the second was more difficult.

Like so many other Albertans, once logging onto the website and putting in the postal code, the website stopped working for Mathewson.

Read more:
Alberta COVID-19 vaccine booking site ‘experiencing very high volumes’ as appointments open to those 75 and older

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Being a computer programmer and developer, Mathewson checked out the coding of the website.

He discovered that he could alter the code and bypass the postal code section, going straight to the patient information form.

By doing so, Mathewson was quickly able to book an appointment.

Upon getting the confirmation, he describes feeling immediate relief.

“It’s exactly that. It’s like: ‘Finally! I don’t have to worry.’”

After double checking the process and simplifying it for a less tech-savvy audience, Mathewson posted the workaround to Twitter in hopes of helping others do the same.

“It was like, ‘OK, how do we make this as easy as possible for people?’ You know, people that don’t know code,” Mathewson told Global News.

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Within hours, hundreds of Albertans responded saying the hack had worked for them and they were also able to book appointments for their loved ones.

However, as of 7 p.m. it appeared the website had been changed and the workaround was no longer effective.

In a series of messages on Twitter Wednesday night, AHS said it had “put additional queuing software in place to help manage the volume of users on the AHS COVID-19 immunization booking tool.

“This software will indicate an estimated wait time, and where each individual is in the booking queue to give people the option to continue booking, or to try again later.”

As of 7 p.m., 43,000 eligible seniors 75 and over had booked appointments using the immunization tool and 811 since it went live at 8 a.m., AHS said.

A spokesperson for AHS told Global News that the queueing system has “nothing to do with the workaround” shared on Twitter.

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A Twitter user created a video walking through the steps to show others how to do it in a visual way.

“It was a real community effort and all the different people kind of pulled together to make this solution happen,” said Mathewson.

Read more:
Albertans 75 and older can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting 8 a.m. Wednesday

The former Edmontonian believes Alberta Health Services could use the tool to fix the delays for all Albertans.

“In my opinion, this seems like a relatively straightforward fix.”

“I’m more than happy to be connected with the people at AHS to make this happen,” Mathewson said. “Part of the reason that I’m here is to sort of communicate that there are great developers like myself that are ready to help make this possible and make this as frictionless and as easy as possible for all Albertans.”


Click to play video 'Alberta Health Minister says AHS is ‘fixing the the problems’ with COVID-19 vaccine booking system'



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Alberta Health Minister says AHS is ‘fixing the the problems’ with COVID-19 vaccine booking system


Alberta Health Minister says AHS is ‘fixing the the problems’ with COVID-19 vaccine booking system

In a statement, Alberta Health Services confirmed the appointments booked using the workaround were official but that “this is not a permanent solution.”

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“The AHS online immunization booking tool continues to experience extremely high volumes and our IT teams are working to find a way to make the process as fast and efficient as possible for everyone.”

Read more:
Should all seniors get the COVID-19 vaccine before essential workers?

In the meantime, Mathewson and his brother Kyle say they’ll continue to help others looking to book appointments.

“I did this for my grandparents but really, this is for all the grandparents of Alberta,” said Mathewson.

“There’s a lot of people that want this and want to be safe. And hopefully this gets them one step closer and takes away that, ‘when is it going to happen?’”


Mufty and Bill Mathewson.


Courtesy/Kory Mathewson

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Moderna begins studying potential COVID-19 vaccine booster targetting variant first detected in South Africa – CBC.ca

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Drug manufacturer Moderna says it will begin testing a variant-specific version of its COVID-19 vaccine that would target the B1351 variant first detected in South Africa.  

The company has previously reported that its original two-dose vaccine — already approved for use in Canada — appears to provide protection against the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., as well as the B1351 variant, though its own research suggests it may be less effective against the latter

The company says it will study the B1351 variant-specific vaccine both as a potential booster to the original COVID-19 vaccine and as a standalone for people who have not yet received a vaccine at all. 

It will study the outcomes of three different scenarios:

  • A single shot of the B1351 variant-specific vaccine. 
  • A shot combining both the original vaccine and the B1351 variant-specific booster. 
  • A booster of the original vaccine, added to the original two-dose version. 

The B1351-specific vaccine will undergo clinical trials at the National Institutes for Health in the U.S.

“As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna in a statement. 

“Leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic.”

Moderna reported last month that its vaccine was essentially as effective against the B117 variant as it was to prior variants.

But it found there was a reduction in its neutralizing ability against the B1351 variant. 

Neutralizing antibodies are one of the body’s immune responses to control viral infections.

South Africa paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data from a small trial suggested the vaccine did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the B1351 variant now dominant in the country.

Johnson & Johnson, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax have all looked at how their vaccines perform against the B1351 variant.

WATCH | Doctor calls for aggressive action to target COVID-19 variants:

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Dr. Brooks Fallis speaks out against reopening plans in several provinces as officials study potential implications of the spread of new COVID-19 variants. 8:46

Variants confirmed around the world

The B1351 variant has been detected in at least 40 countries while the B117, first detected in the U.K., has now been identified in 80. Both have been found in Canada. 

Health Canada would need to approve any booster or new vaccine against the B1351 variant before it could be administered here.

The prime minister confirmed Wednesday that Moderna will deliver the two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine it is contracted to provide Canada by the end of March. 

Justin Trudeau said Canada expects to receive 460,000 doses the week of March 8 and 840,000 doses beginning  March 22.

That’s in addition to the 518,000 Moderna shots that have been administered in this country already and the 168,000 doses that are set to arrive this week.

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Moderna to begin trial of new COVID vaccine to address virus variant first found in South Africa – USA TODAY

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Karen Weintraub
 
| USA TODAY

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Mobile clinic helps distribute COVID-19 vaccine at DC church

In the District today, a pilot program using churches to help distribute the coronavirus vaccine was introduced.

Fox – 5 DC, Fox – 5 DC

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Moderna, which makes one of the two authorized COVID-19 vaccines, is set to launch a clinical trial of a new vaccine designed to combat a variant of the virus, the company announced Wednesday. 

The company says it has produced enough of its variant-specific candidate vaccine, called mRNA-1273.351 to begin testing it in people.

Any change to address variants, which other vaccine makers also are working on, would need to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

In a study published last week, Moderna showed that blood from people who received the current vaccine includes neutralizing antibodies against the major known variants. But only one-sixth of their antibodies were protective against the B.1.351 variant of the virus, which originated in South Africa, and which is the target of its new vaccine. 

It is not clear whether this reduced antibody level is sufficient to protect people against symptomatic or serious cases of COVID-19 from this new variant.

That’s why “out of an abundance of caution,” the company said in a news release it has begun pursuing two possible strategies against the variant: giving people a booster dose of the original vaccine to increase antibody levels, and developing two variant-specific vaccines, which could be given instead of the original one.

It will test several variations of a booster, the company said, including a single, low-dose shot of the variant-specific vaccine; a shot that includes both the original vaccine and the variant-specific one; and a third low-dose version of the original vaccine. 

According to FDA guidance, the company plans to evaluate the safety and immune effects of these approaches in people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and in those who received the original vaccine, mRNA-1273.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease will help lead the clinical studies to see if mRNA-1273.351 can boost immunity against the variant. In its announcement Wednesday, the company said it already has shipped sufficient doses of this variant-specific vaccine needed for testing. 

“As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, said in a prepared statement, referring to the virus that causes COVID-19. “We are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic.”

The lower doses hopefully will work for the booster, Bancel said, allowing the company to stretch its limited vaccine supply.

Other leaders in the COVID-19 vaccine effort – Pfizer-BioNTech, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca-Oxford University – also have said they are working on new versions of their vaccines or boosters to increase their protection.

A third vaccine on the way: One-dose J&J COVID-19 vaccine meets criteria as safe and effective, FDA report finds

It’s not yet clear whether a booster shot, which amps up the immune system, will be enough to protect against a new variant, or if an entirely new vaccine is needed.

Moderna is the first to release details about its effort. 

In a Congressional subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Pfizer’s chief business officer, John Young, said his company is “preparing to respond quickly to initiate a study to investigate the effectiveness of a third booster of our vaccine in trial participants who have already received two doses.”

He said Pfizer is discussing trial designs with the FDA. “We will fight every step of the way until a devastating pandemic is under control,” he said.

The Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer-BioNTech one, is based on mRNA technology in which a simple change to the code will enable the recipient to make a slightly different protein. That’s why they were both made so quickly last year, once it became clear which protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus they should target. By getting the body to produce a protein from the virus, the vaccine trains the immune system to recognize that protein and immediately attack if the recipient is exposed to the virus.

On Monday, the FDA laid out guidelines for companies that want to change their vaccines to adapt to new variants. They will not be required to start from scratch, running gigantic clinical trials over many months as they have to win FDA authorization.

Instead, as with the flu vaccine, which is altered every year to cope with changing strains, COVID-19 vaccine versions will be tested in smaller groups to confirm safety and to examine immune responses for effectiveness.

Lab studies and some real-world evidence suggests that current vaccines will remain effective against a variant called B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom.

Lessons from the UK: COVID-19 variant found in UK spreads ‘like wildfire.’ British experts fear what will happen if US won’t lock down

But they may not all work against B.1.351. Studies of AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s collaborative vaccine showed it was barely protective at all against B.1.351 in South Africa, and that country has passed on using doses of the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does seem to provide some protection there, and lab studies suggest that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, like Moderna’s, would continue to provide some protection against that variant, though it’s not clear how much.

Even if it proves unnecessary to reconfigure vaccines to fight the B.1.351 variant, there may be another that comes along that will require a new vaccine, public health officials have said.

New variants of the virus will continue to emerge as COVID-19 continues to infect people across the globe. The only way to stop these variants is to reduce the spread of the virus, public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease doctor, have said.

“It really is the time to study effects of booster doses to new, emerging viral variants,” Dr. Jesse Goodman, a professor of Medicine at Georgetown University and former chief scientist with the FDA, said in a Wednesday call with media.

Studies are needed to show whether people respond as expected to booster doses, and whether they cause any concerning safety problems. 

And even if the virus doesn’t escape protection from current vaccines, people might need boosters eventually, Goodman said.

“We don’t know,” he said, “how long immunity will last from these vaccines.” 

Contact Karen Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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